In our undercover investigation of GP practices, we found wide differences in the quality of consultations. We also found that many GPs are not acting on patient feedback. How does your GP treat you?
We sent trained undercover fieldworkers into 30 GP practices across England to assess the consultations given to patients, and found huge variability in diagnosis.
Our expert panel – including three GPs – rated 12 of the visits poor, while 14 were good and four were satisfactory. Consultation times varied greatly, taking anywhere from three to 20 minutes for the same patients with exactly the same symptoms. There was also a significant correlation between the quality and the length of the appointment, with all 12 ‘poor’ consultations lasting eight minutes or less.
We’d all probably agree that GPs work hard to do the best for their patients, but it’s worrying that people with the same symptoms could have such a different experience when they visit their doctor. You can see an example of this in our undercover video footage:
This is something I’ve experienced myself. Sometimes I feel like I’ve had a great consultation and other times I can see that my GP is so rushed that she just needs to move on to the next patient.
When I spent a day with a GP, it was interesting to see how just one patient, who needed emergency admission to hospital, threw the whole day out, leaving other patients with long waiting times.
Voice of the patients
In a separate survey we asked GPs how they use feedback from their patients. We found that half of GPs don’t review patient feedback from the national patient survey and a quarter don’t discuss patient feedback at staff meetings. Worryingly, two in five said they don’t change policies and procedures based on the feedback they receive.
Hopefully the changes taking place in the NHS, with new regulators and patient groups being set up, will ensure that patients’ voices are being heard and, most importantly, acted on.
Does our research fit with your own experience? Are GPs at fault, or is the system failing? Could GPs improve by simply listening more closely to their patients?