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Half of patients expect GPs to prescribe or refer in line with their demands

Half of the public think that their GP should always give them the prescription, treatment, or referral to a specialist that they request, a survey has indicated.

The YouGov poll of 2,000 British adults, commissioned by Medical Protection, also found that one in five members of the public (21%) has challenged their GP’s diagnosis and almost half (47%) of patients attempt self-diagnosis by googling their symptoms before seeing a GP

This comes as nine in ten (86%) of Medical Protection GP members said that they ’sometimes, most of the time or always’ have challenging experiences with patients when they do not provide the prescription, treatment, or referral to a specialist they request.

In what is likely to come as more positive news, some 80% of the public agreed that their GP does ‘meet their needs and expectations’.

But Medical Protection senior medico-legal adviser Dr Pallavi Bradshaw warned that patients consulting ‘Dr Google’ before turning to their GP may be more likely to submit negligence claims as a result.

She said: ‘Patients who search their symptoms and possible diagnosis online before visiting their GP may have a preconceived idea of what their diagnosis is and how the condition should be treated.

’When these expectations are not met, it can lead to patients feeling dissatisfied, a breakdown in the doctor-patient relationship and a greater risk of the patient pursuing a complaint or claim against the GP.’

To best try to avoid such claims, Medical Protection advises that GPs ’always try to establish exactly what their patient’s expectations are’ and make sure that they ’focus on clearly addressing expectations throughout the consultation and involving the patient in decisions around how to manage any issues’.

Dr Bradshaw said GPs have a ‘a professional, legal and ethical obligation to involve patients in decisions around their own care’ and that ‘where a patient has a false belief or unrealistic expectation, it should not be dismissed without a discussion and explanation of how and why an alternative option is in the patient’s best interests’.

But she added: ‘During the consultation, it may also be appropriate for GPs to encourage patients to be cautious about self-diagnosis via the internet.

‘They can also guide patients to useful health resources and patient group sites which may help with their ongoing healthcare.’

The advice comes as experts have warned that unrealistic Government targets for savings in the NHS will lead to widespread rationing of services.

In a recent example of NHS rationing, one CCG attempted to block all non-urgent referrals of patients to hospital this winter.

Meanwhile, a host of CCGs have recently advised GPs they should no longer prescribe over-the-counter medicines for self-limiting illnesses.

GP treatment expectations survey results

  • 47% of the public has looked up their symptoms online;
  • 50% think GPs should give them the treatment, referral or prescription they want;
  • 21% of the public have challenged their GP’s diagnosis;
  • 80% of the public agree their GP meets their needs and expectations;
  • 86% of Medical Protection GP members sometimes, most of the time or always have challenging experiences with patients when they do not provide the prescription, treatment of referral to a specialist they request.

Source: YouGov poll of 2,000 British adults, and a survey of Medical Protection members


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