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Polysystem roll-out hit by patient concern over continuity of care

By Ian Quinn

Exclusive: Patients value continuity of care far more than having access to GPs in polyclinics, weekend and evening appointments or being able to register with practices close to their work, according to a consultation run by NHS managers.

NHS Kingston released results of a wide-ranging consultation over its plans for two polysystems as part of NHS London's comprehensive overhaul of GP practices, seen by many as a model for the future of general practice.

But when given a list of services that could be provided in polyclinics, fewer than 3% of patients said they wanted GPs there, with the majority happy with the care provided by existing practices.

Patients said they valued the relationship with their individual GP more highly than other Government initiatives, such as extended hours and getting rid of practices boundaries.

When asked which elements of the health service they most wanted to preserve, patients most commonly said easy access to good GPs (19.2%), closely followed by caring, high-quality staff, especially the personal relationship with a GP (18.3%).

The consultation concluded it was ‘evident people were happy with GP services available locally'. Having access to a health centre closer to work – the policy of all main parties - was rated as ‘unimportant' by most patients.

The trust sent out or made available 1,200 questionnaires, with 104 responses. Access to appropriate treatment was seen as the most important area for improvement in primary care, whilst access to weekend and evening appointments came second to last, with only plans for practices closer to work scoring less.

The most commonly requested improved to access was for more options for advanced bookings, with ‘many people wanting regular access to a known GP'.

NHS Kingston said it would take account of patients' views, but downplayed the findings: ‘One or two residents asked whether people would continue to have a relationship with their GP. We reassured them this would be the case,' said a spokesperson.

She added: 'Our consultation found overwhelming support for a polyclinic, with over 93 percent of people supporting its development. We reassured participants that the polyclinic should strengthen relationships with GPs as its focus is on making more services available through primary care. The most frequently requested additional services to be delivered locally included urgent care, diagnostics and minor procedures.'

Polysystem roll-out hit by patient concern over continuity of care Polysystem survey graph Polysystem survey pie