Patients welcome an ongoing relationship with their GP as it promotes trust, cooperation and a high quality of care, a study suggests.
Researchers at the University of Leicester are calling on the government not to jeopardise patient-GP relationships in their reforms to primary care delivery.
Dr Carolyn Tarrant interviewed 279 primary care patients and 12 GPs in her local area.
She found that ongoing relationships help to build secure and robust patient trust and can promote cooperation between patients and GPs.
Patients were more likely to trust GPs that they had had positive experiences with in the past. Seeing the same GP repeatedly also reduced uncertainty and built a secure form of trust based on personal knowledge and emotional ties.
GPs felt that ongoing relationships helped to achieve cooperative outcomes and made it easier for them to deal with difficult patients and sensitive issues.
The University of Leicester researchers are adamant that the GP-patient relationship should not be undermined by government reform.
Dr Carolyn Tarrant said: "Recent reforms of primary care in the UK have led to a shift away from the traditional model of primary care that had the personal family doctor at its heart. Modern primary care emphasises quick access and choice.
"Care is increasingly often provided by teams of health professionals, and by other providers such as NHS Direct and NHS walk-in centres. It is less often provided by GPs who know their patients personally.
"Although this is likely to have certain benefits for patients and certainly for GPs, a fundamental feature of primary care – the GP-patient relationship – is under threat."
"As a patient, for me the personal relationship is a must. I cannot find this in the town I have just moved to. I am alarmed at the steadily reducing quality of the NHS I have supported." - Paul Owen, Keynsham