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More GP time “does not mean better service”

31 July 2008

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Patients who spend more face-to-face time with GPs do not necessarily get more in-depth consultations, according to research.

Five studies conducted in the UK found patients did not feel more satisfied with their care when they were able to consult longer with their doctors.

The research, presented in the journal the Cochrane Library, showed that doctors failed to change many aspects of their behaviour when they spent extra time with their patients. These included: discussing more problems; prescribing more drugs; running more tests; or doing more examinations.

Co-author of the review Dr Andrew Wilson, of England’s University of Leicester, said: “There was some evidence that blood pressure was checked and smoking discussed more often when more time was available.”

However, he said the most consistent finding was that most aspects of a doctors’ behaviour “remained unchanged”.

The Cochrane Collaboration, which publishes the Cochrane Library, evaluates medical research through systematic reviews that draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

But the authors admit in each study consultation times were only slightly longer than usual and might have given enough extra time to make a difference in the doctors’ routine or the patients’ satisfaction.

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