UK GPs score highly in patient communication

Authors: Helen Jaques 

Publication date:  12 Nov 2011


The United Kingdom is second only to Switzerland in the quality of doctor-patient relationships and communication, a survey by the Commonwealth Fund has found.

A total of 87% of the 1001 individuals in the UK surveyed by the organisation said their regular doctor always or often spends enough time with them, and 77% said their doctor encourages them to ask questions and explains things in a way that is easy to understand. Nearly three quarters (72%) said their doctor always or often does both, placing the UK second only to Switzerland (73%) in the quality of its doctors’ communication skills.

Furthermore, 81% of UK individuals surveyed said they had a healthcare professional who they can easily call to ask to get advice between doctor visits, the highest proportion of all 11 countries surveyed.

The Commonwealth Fund conducted telephone surveys with “sicker adults,” such as individuals with chronic illness or those who had been admitted to hospital in the past two years, in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States.

The study highlights the critical importance of patient centered primary care for a high performing health system, said Cathy Schoen, senior vice president of the Commonwealth Fund and lead author of the study.

“We found that to varying degrees in all countries, chronically ill or sicker patients encounter failures of providers to communicate with each other or coordinate care,” said Ms Schoen. “Yet in each country, patients with primary care practices that help them navigate the care system and provide easy access are far less likely to encounter duplication, delays, and failures to share important information.”

The UK came top in coordination of care, with only 20% of UK adults surveyed saying they had experienced issues with coordination of care, such as poor sharing of information between primary and secondary care, compared with 56% in Germany, the poorest performer.

“The Commonwealth Fund Survey shows yet again that the excellent work carried out by general practitioners in the UK is recognised worldwide, leading the field in providing quality, joined up care,” said Clare Gerada, chairwoman of the Royal College of General Practitioners. “The NHS stands out internationally as an example of excellence, and general practice is what makes the NHS safe, fair, and value for money.”

Helen Jaques news reporter BMJ Careers

 hjaques@bmj.com

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