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Last Updated: Monday, 4 April, 2005, 22:53 GMT 23:53 UK
Patients 'prize local GP access'
GP with patient
Patients want convenient access to a GP, say campaigners
Patients value having a local GP practice above access to a variety of primary care services, doctors' leaders have revealed.

A poll of over 2,000 adults for the British Medical Association found 75% felt such surgeries were prized above initiatives such as walk-in centres.

Patients' representatives said services had to suit populations, and in rural areas they wanted GP services nearby.

The Mori poll was published alongside the BMA manifesto for general practice.

If super-surgeries are to replace the ordinary practices, there would need to be benefits to patients
Michael Summers
Patients Association

A spokeswoman for the BMA said: "We're not saying money shouldn't be going into these new services, as long as there's adequate funding going into traditional GP services.

"It shouldn't be going in to new services at the expense of general practice."

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA's GPs Committee, said: "With 300 million patient consultations a year, UK general practice is renowned as the most cost-effective form of health care delivery in the developed world.

"Other countries are doing their best to copy it."

"UK family doctors have proved you can redress health inequalities by providing the best evidence-based medicine to all, regardless of where patients live or their socio-economic status."

'Crucial role'

The BMA's manifesto calls on the incoming government "to recognise the crucial role played by GPs and their teams in the NHS".

It says there are still major shortages in the number of GPs in the NHS, and says more emphasis should be placed on recruiting and retaining family doctors.

It also warns that plans to extend the role of commercial private sector companies into primary care carry significant risks.

Michael Summers, chairman of the Patients Association, said: "People have divided views, depending on where they live.

"The suggestion that we have super-surgeries might be suitable for some patients in big cities where services are available in one place.

"But in rural areas, super-surgeries aren't really suitable.

"If super-surgeries are to replace the ordinary practices, there would need to be benefits to patients."

He added: "Because of where they are situated, near stations and shopping centres, walk-in centres are not necessarily a bad thing.

"They are only open certain hours but people find they are convenient."

Health Minister John Hutton said: "It is no surprise that local GP practices are popular with patients, as our historic investment in primary care has delivered significant improvements to these services.

"All patients can now expect to see a GP within just two working days, compared to just half of patients in 1997, while we have also provided more and better GP premises.

"Registration with local GP practices is valued by patients and the NHS alike and will remain at the heart of primary care."

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