'He Treats You as a Person Not Just Like a Number': The Meaning of Personal Care in General Practice
qualitative study of the meaning of personal care in general practice, British
Medical Journal, June 14
A new study led by the University of
Leicester has analysed the meaning of personal care in a GP’s surgery – and
the risks posed to personal care through new changes.
The study was
led by Professor Richard Baker of
the University of Leicester, in
collaboration with Professor Mary Bouton at Oxford Brookes University, and
Professor George Freeman at Imperial College, London, and was carried out
by two Leicester researchers - Carolyn Tarrant and Dr Kate Windridge.
The results, published in this week’s British
Medical Journal, describe patients’ experiences of personal care, and
health professionals’ views on making care personal.
Ms Tarrant, who is
lead author of the paper, said: “General practitioners (GPs) have
traditionally provided ‘personal’, continuing care to their patients.
However, ongoing changes in the organisation of primary care, such as the
increasing number of large GP practices, and the introduction of other primary
care services such as NHS Direct and NHS walk-in centres, make it less likely
that patients will receive all their care from the same GP - and there is
concern that this will mean care becomes less ‘personal’.
”We conducted interviews with 40
patients, 13 GPs, 10 practice and community nurses, and six practice
“We found that patients and professionals alike valued personal care, and that personal care is promoted by, but not always dependent on, an ongoing relationship between a patient and a health care professional. The whole practice team, including practice receptionists, has an important role in making care personal.”
The research concludes: “Practices and
individual health professionals can provide personal care even when patients do
not consult a familiar health professional. In
particular, if GPs and other practice members wish provide personal care to
patients, it is important for them to have good communication skills, and to
have the time to use these skills effectively. Personal
care is also more likely if all members of the practice team are supportive and
communicate well with each other. However, an ongoing patient-health provider relationship
facilitates personal care, and for some patients in our study, only an ongoing
relationship with an individual health professional could give them the level of
personal care they needed.”
Changes in policy and practice in primary
care could threaten personal care for some patients if it becomes more difficult
for patients to get care in the context of a relationship when they need it.
Consequently the paper recommends that practices should have systems that
enable patients to consult in the context of a continuing relationship whenever
they prefer to do so.
NOTE TO EDITORS:
For further information contact Ms Carolyn Tarrant, Research
Associate, Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of
Leicester, Leicester, UK, 00
44 (0)116 258 4873;
This document has been approved by the head of department or section.