Primary and urgent care survey - continuity: seeing the same GP

To establish how important continuity is for patients, we offered four scenarios and asked whether people would prefer to wait longer to see their usual/the same GP or see a different GP more quickly.

The scenarios were:

  • A long term condition, or something you have seen your doctor about before
  • Feeling low or depressed
  • A new health concern such as a cough that has lasted more than three weeks
  • Bad back pain that stops you from working normally

For most people this showed a clear pattern of people preferring to see the same GP for a long term condition but being happy to see a new GP more quickly for a new or sudden illness such as a cough or back pain.

People were more divided about a mental health problem. This is illustrated in Figure 3 below.

Figure 3: Preference to see own, doctor in different scenarios (percentages) – see Table A2 in appendix 1 for details

There is a core group of people who prioritise seeing their own GP. Nearly 300 people made comments about wanting to see their own, or the same doctor. People described the advantages of building a good relationship, not wasting time having to go over their history and problems repeatedly and avoiding getting conflicting advice from different doctors.

Be able to see the same GP so we can establish a relationship, trust, confidence in them and they know you as a person.

I would like to see the same GP: presently I am given any doctor that has time. I find this disconcerting. I feel that I do not get the best advice due to doctor not knowing my history

Be able to see the same GP and to be able to book more appointments in advance.  As someone with a long term health problem I continually have to explain the history of my illness each time I need to see a GP.  It is very rare that I can see the same GP.

Allowing me to see my regular doctor all the time. Holistic treatment means he can be more accurate in diagnosis, saving him and me time, and the NHS huge costs in irrelevant tests and treatments.

The ability to see same GP to repeat, regular appointment about the same health problem. This is for two reasons 1) I suffer from a long term physical health conditions and it is very difficult to make routine appointments with the same GP, 2) I would need support with stress and anxiety and would have liked to talk to a GP who knows me as it was very difficult for me to explain my difficulties to a stranger

I would like to see the doctor of my choice, particularly for an on-going condition, without having to wait 2+ weeks. I do not find it satisfactory to begin all over again explaining symptoms to a different doctor. It is also difficult to establish a relationship of trust in such circumstances.

There are differences in these results when you look at age. A higher proportion of people over the age of 65 (25%) prefer to see the same GP for back pain, than people under 65 (17%).

This is also true when looking at a new health concern where 32% of the older group and 20% of the younger group wanted to see the same GP. This would imply that older people are more interested in continuity with the same GP than younger people, and that the overall findings may have over-estimated the desire for continuity, given the age of the sample.

In terms of feeling low or depressed, 38% of the under 65s preferred seeing a different GP which is higher than the over 65s (16%). [13] A higher proportion people who use GP services frequently (four or more times a year) preferred seeing their own GP for back pain and mental health problems.

Although all groups wanted to see a different GP faster for new concerns or back pain, a higher proportion of people with physical disabilities wanted to see the same GP for bad back pain or a new concern than people without a disability (34% vs 18% for back pain, and 34% vs 24% with a new health concern).

Similar responses can be seen from people with long term conditions, with higher proportions wanting to see the same GP with for new health concerns or bad backs than those without. [14]

A greater proportion of people with mental health conditions (66%) were likely to want to see their own GP if they were feeling low or depressed than the general population. In terms of feeling low or depressed, a higher proportion of women wanted to see the same GP (59%) than men (50%).

Although the numbers are small, a higher proportion of Asian people (42%) said they would prefer their own GP for back problems than the general population (21%).

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