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Monday, October 5, 1998 Published at 23:26 GMT 00:26 UK


NHS education campaign fails to win over patients

Patients are fed up with waiting for a consultation

A campaign to persuade patients to use the NHS more responsibly has failed to halt a massive increase in demand for out-of-hours GP consultations, according to a new survey.

Health Which? Magazine researched the impact of the Doctor Patient Partnership, a campaign set up by the British Medical Association and financed by the Department of Health.

The DPP was launched amid fears that excessive and unreasonable demand for healthcare was threatening to overwhelm primary care services.

However, the Which Heath? research found that the public was unhappy with the service offered by GPs.

The number of patients demanding to see their GPs outside daytime surgery hours has more than doubled in the past decade.

Patients said they wanted out-of-hours care because they found it difficult to get a 9-5 appointment.

Some people said they had to wait a week for an appointment, others wait an hour in the surgery before they are seen.

Patients are "fed up"

[ image: Patients want out-of-hours consultations]
Patients want out-of-hours consultations
Sally Williams, the report's author, said: "People get fed up waiting in doctor's surgeries. They want the GP to say "sorry you have to wait" and explain why and how long the wait will be."

The research also found that patients believed their needs were sometimes overlooked their needs in favour of doctors' needs.

Recent campaigns urging people to go to pharmacies for advice and medication before seeing their GP, were confusing for the elderly, the research found.

The campaign did not apply to them, but some believed it did - and imagined they had to pay for medicine at the chemist even though they could get it free from their GP.

Despite producing more than a million posters for GP surgeries and pharmacies, not one person was aware that the DPP campaign existed.

"We must improve"

Nottingham GP Dr Simon Fradd, head of the DPP, said: "We need to improve daytime surgeries by employing more doctors, helping people to treat themselves, and urging people to cancel appointments."

Dr Fradd is also in discussions with BT to install answer machine phonelines in every surgery specifically for people to cancel appointments, instead of failing to show up and wasting surgery time.

However, Dr Fradd refused to accept that the DPP was ineffective. He said the Which Health? research was limited, and had failed to take into consideration widespread media coverage of DPP campaigns.

Dr Fradd said: "The Health Which? article also criticises the DPP because people don't think that DPP campaigns were relevant to them because they thought they already used the services appropriately.

"Of course people are not going to say that they are the problem and will blame others for using health care services inappropriately.

"My patients who fail to turn up for an appointment are reluctant to admit they simply forgot. This reflects human nature and not the effectiveness of the DPP campaign."

The DPP has been given £3 million by the department of health to help fund its campaigns for next three years.

Health Which? surveyed four focus groups and carried out 72 in-depth interviews.

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