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Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
Do you prefer doctors or nurses?
Patients are more satisfied with the care they receive from a nurse than from their GP, new research has found.

A review of 34 studies found nurse practitioners - specially trained nurses - offered longer consultations and carried out more investigations than doctors.

The research, conducted by the Department of Primary Care at the University of Bristol found that nurses offered more advice on self-care and managing conditions.

They also scored better on communications, and made more complete records, than their medical colleagues.

Who do you think provides a better quality of care - doctors or nurses? Would you specifically request care from one over the other?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

My wife is one of the new Primary Care Nurse Practitioners who sees, diagnoses and treats about 40 patients a day. They have carefully defined protocols and rules but take a considerable load off the doctors. She has over 20 year's nursing experience and has recently taken twp Honours Degrees (self funded) in Nursing - the big difference is that she is paid about half what the doctors are paid.
Charles , England

As usual, it's all about doing things on the cheap

Tony, UK
As usual, it's all about doing things on the cheap. Now we are told that the Government will replace highly qualified doctors (7 years training and high intellectual ability) with nurses (I won't be disrespectful, but frankly there is no comparison) and in another demoralised field of UK public service, they think they can replace teachers with people being paid 5 to 7 per hour. If it wasn't so dangerous, it might be laughable.
Tony, UK

Not bothered who I see - it's the waiting I dislike.
Matt, UK

Of course everyone is going to say they love nurses. They pamper you and comfort you when you're feeling at your worst. Doctor's have to distance themselves to some extent but are ultimately more crucial to healing you. I was in hospital recently and I found the doctors there to be very friendly and not at all arrogant - and worked to death. Twelve hour shifts, every one of them, nearly every day. I admit I have in the past found GPs to be a little arrogant but that is starting to improve now that patients are becoming more informed.
M Maguire, UK

How can you possibly compare people who are trained in completely separate professions? A nurse is trained primarily in hands on interaction with the patient, a large part of their job is to make the patient feel at home, and comfortable. Whilst I am not saying a GP is not required to do this, he or she is attempting to attend to the problem that the patient came in with in the first place. JC from the UK is absolutely right, it's all well and good saying that the nurse caters for the patients needs, but what good is that exactly if nobody ever cures the patient?
Alex Allen, England

In all fairness, I haven't had that many dealings with nurses, but the one NHS experience that will always bring back a smile is in an A&E ward, listening to a radiologist and a junior doctor arguing about whether my fingers were broken or just badly bruised. I think all of the nurses on the ward were giving the pair of them a wide berth, and were actually treating people.
Rufus, Oxford, UK

Nurses are wonderful - but who treats them when they're ill?
Chris B., England

Obviously we need both

Mike, UK
Anachronistic comments from Claire Rayner on yesterday's Today programme that nurses are inherently gifted in 'communication' have no basis in scientific fact, and just serve to drive a wedge between Doctors and Nurses working closely together today. So does your silly vote - you could have asked: Could we do without Nurses or Doctors? Obviously we need both.
Mike, UK

Yes, we find the same in the USA, you get better attention and often more accurate diagnoses from nurse practitioners or physician assistants. Possibly because the world over doctors fall into two categories. Those who are overbearing and arrogant and never listen to a word you say, or lazy and just in it for the money so don't care what you have to say.
Susan, UK/USA

I certainly wouldn't want anyone other than a fully qualified doctor to be in control of my well-being and controlling the decisions for recovery

Archangel, England
Nurses and doctors are completely different even with this new nurse training scheme. I certainly wouldn't want anyone other than a fully qualified doctor to be in control of my well-being and controlling the decisions for recovery.
Archangel, England

In my experience it's the receptionists and appointment systems which cause most joy or pain in local surgeries, the medical care is usually excellent when you get past that!
Chris, UK

Unfortunately in Russia I guess doctors are much better than nurses. Though I am a nurse myself
Katerina, Russia

This doesn't surprise me in the slightest. Most people who go to see a doctor (GP) only need to see a nurse or have someone to listen to them. And then they are upset when the doctor insinuates they are wasting their time! Give these nurses 15-20 years of listening to whiners and then see how their service compares.
Chris, UK

I don't see how you can compare the two. The roles are completely different. This survey is just another example of a dumbed-down attitude towards professionals by people who can't think clearly for themselves. And I have to add ... my GP is superb.
Jeff, UK

A trained nurse is no more or less likely to miss a serious indicator than a trained doctor

Linda, USA
All I want is a trained professional who is able to listen to my concerns and has the time to explain my problem, the treatment and any side effects. If a nurse practitioner is available to complete the initial work-up, review current issues, and address those not indicating serious problems, then we all win as the doctors will have more time to spend with the patients who need serious care. A trained nurse is no more or less likely to miss a serious indicator than a trained doctor, especially one who is rushed and already thinking about his/her next patient.
Linda, USA

A nurse could never replace a doctor, and it's stupid to even consider it. As dedicated and hard working as nurses are, they are close to sainthood in my view. But I don't think they have the medical knowledge or training to replace a GP.
Baz, UK

Nurses are trained to treat people, doctors are trained to treat diseases. Seeing a nurse is a more positive experience, but only a doctor will do when there's something serious wrong.
Stuart, Scotland

How can one possibly answer this question. Some doctors are patronising, incompetent and uncaring, others are the complete opposite. Some nurses are unsympathetic and bossy and others are caring and kind. One can't generalise about either group. Perhaps if certain people didn't run to the doctor with every minor complaint and the media didn't feed peoples' hypochondria with constant hypothetical 'health scares', doctors wouldn't be so overworked. The concept of doctors as 'curers' seems to me to be rather a myth as many illnesses and conditions remain mysterious as to their cause and effective treatment.
Rachel, Switzerland

Surely everybody will agree when I say that the issue, here, is not which of the two we prefer, but which of the two can we, as tax payers, trust, when we see that the health services for the average citizen(in still many countries of the world ) are unfortunately NOT in the state they should be!
Nikolas, Greece

I like both, though only if they are male, thirty-something and good looking.
Lisa, Wales

I feel intimidated by my GP but I can't complain about his ability to give a good diagnosis

Gina, UK
I went to see my GP yesterday with a painful knee and he started to write out a prescription before I had finished explaining what was wrong. He wasn't even going to give me his diagnosis except that I asked. I am a reasonably confident person and feel intimidated by him so goodness knows how his other patients cope. His nurse is smashing, but as I am now walking without a limp for the first time in six months I can't complain about his ability to give a good diagnosis.
Gina, UK

GPs and practice nurses are a team not competitors. Of course patients would be happier with nurses - longer consultations with less tired individuals. If the nurses had the same responsibilities, paperwork, financial pressures, home visits and out of hours work then the question might be a little more valid.
Nick, UK

These are two completely different and complimentary professions. Encourage our public to look and understand, not dumb down issues. To Chumas (UK), You are incorrect - you don't realise but nurses do take a tremendous amount of responsibility for their judgements and have to have a lot of training both practical and academic in combination over 3.5 years. They can be struck off their professional register and have to take responsibility in making decisions over prescribed medicines i.e whether appropriate for this patient now in present circumstances (without a doctor present) and many more things that the patient needs that a doctor does not have anything to do with. Finally, to Anonymous (UK), I second Jill. After three years and in training to become a professional nurse, I have worked flat out, as every one of the colleagues that I know has. I have had time for about four very brief chats in working time and less coffees in these three years. The rest of the time has been patient focussed jolly hard work - and I love it.
Fergus McCausland, England

I have found nurses very helpful, but remember they take no responsibilities for misjudgement, they cost less so can give more time, but I prefer to look after myself and see a doctor when I know I need one. A lot of people need comfort and advice and to talk and I feel nurses fulfil this better than a doctor, but when it needs a critical decision it has to be a doctor. They slaved hours to learn, maybe do not come over as sympathetic, but they should have the knowledge and the buck stops there.
Chumas, UK

My doctor could not be better. The whole staff at my local practice are simply superb - nurses, doctors, receptionists, and all the attendant professionals. All we need to do to make the NHS the envy of the world is to bring all practices up to this standard.
Guy Chapman, UK

I've had good and bad doctors and good and bad practice nurses. A good practice nurse for triage backed up with quick access to a good GP is obviously the ideal - but what about the pharmacist as an alternative for the minor problems? They do undertake five years of training in medicines, but aren't allowed to prescribe. How can a nurse with a restricted list and restricted training offer a better service than the experts?
Karen, UK

Over the years the nurses I have seen have all without exception been friendly, helpful, always listen and offer good advice

H Miller, UK
I have not had many occasions to see a doctor over the past six or so years, although I see a nurse regularly (contraceptive). Over the years the nurses I have seen have all without exception been friendly, helpful, always listen and offer good advice. The doctors on the other hand were awful - they made me feel as if I were wasting their time, my concerns were of no interest, and the last female doctor I saw was downright rude - she kept interrupting me as I was trying to explain something important.
H Miller, UK

Whilst nurses often have or take the time to look at the smaller issues with patients, to build up the rapport and to make patients feel at ease, they do not have the extensive training and medical knowledge that doctors have. It's not as black and white as this vote makes it seem. A multi-disciplinary approach is the most effective
Jane Miller, UK

Nurses are primarily carers and doctors are primarily curers and both are valuable

What a stupid question! It's like asking "What's better, a deck chair or an apple?" Comparisons should be like with like. Nurses are primarily carers and doctors are primarily curers and both are valuable.

My GP (who is always pleasant, but visibly tired and harassed) tries to fob off his patients on to the practice nurse. She too is very pleasant, but if I'm making the effort to see a doctor, I want to see a doctor, not a nurse. Nurses can treat minor ailments OK, but I would prefer an experienced doctor to see me in case there's some underlying ailment the nurse isn't trained enough to spot. Basically, doctors should do the diagnosis and decide the treatment, and nurses should carry out the treatment for the doctor.
Tim, UK

The best care of all is offered by women doctors!!
Anthony, England

It has been shown by research carried out by the Department of Human Behaviour at Oregon University that treatment in a hospital leaves the patient with a more positive psychosomatic reaction to those patients treated as out-patients at their local medical centre by their GP's. 200 students took part in the research, ranging from minor ailments such as the common cold to more serious medical procedures involving anaesthetics. 85% of the students felt better sooner following treatment at a hospital.
LJH, England

Well Anonymous - I have numerous breaks do I and make numerous cups of tea? I have just worked the last 13 out of 14 days because my ward is not able to recruit nurses to fill vacancies. We are all part of a team for goodness sake, each of us with an equally important part to play. Let's stop all this narrow minded bickering about which profession is "better" and get on with the job in hand - that of delivering the highest quality of care to those who need us, whoever we are, whatever our title is.
Jill, UK

Nurses have more time on their hands than doctors

Anonymous, UK
Nurses have more time on their hands than doctors. In-between making cups of tea and having chats and having their numerous breaks they can offer "longer consultations and carry out more investigations than doctors". Of course they're more friendly and approachable because they don't have the stress and massive responsibilities that doctors have.
Anonymous, UK

GP's are probably the worst. Did anyone know that a consultation with an NHS GP is supposed to last no more than seven minutes? I saw five different GP's about a stomach complaint I had over a year. I suffered from constant heartburn and sleepless nights. They simply patted me on the head told me I had a bad diet - to much alcohol and the wrong kind of foods and sent me on my way. I finally demanded to see a specialist and low and behold I was diagnosed with a sliding hiatus hernia and am now on permanent medication which has improved my life completely. The consultant said if this had not been treated now (I am 32) then I would have been a candidate for stomach cancer in later life. And it was a nurse friend who told me to demand to see a specialist.
Danny, UK

A nurse can deal with less complex cases and can probably afford to spend more time per patient. Some whiz kid in the government seems to have decided that a doctor can introduce himself, listen to the symptoms, diagnose the problem and propose a solution within the space of 10 minutes. Perhaps what is needed in a lot of cases is an appointment with a practise nurse who will then refer to the doctor if necessary. This way less complex cases can be dealt with quickly and the doctor is kept free to handle the more demanding cases.
John B, UK

Definitely nurses. I've known a few in my time. They really know their stuff.
Simon, UK

All I want to do is have my blood pressure checked but the hassle of trying to see a doctor will only raise it!

Trish Auciello, UK
My doctor has got rid of his practice nurse so I now have the choice of waiting a couple of weeks to see him or waiting several days to see one of his never ending stream of locums who don't seem to be interested. All I want to do is have my blood pressure checked but the hassle of trying to see a doctor will only raise it!
Trish Auciello, UK

There is simply no comparison between the training and knowledge of a doctor and a nurse. While some nurses may be equal or better than doctors in treating routine minor emergencies, a doctor is the only one of the two skilled to treat anything more serious and to know the difference between the two.
Mark, USA

A lot of the doctors I've seen appear to have decided what's wrong with you before they've examined you. Nurses take more interest and keep an open mind.
Rob Anderson, UK

Some doctors go into the profession to look down on people

Oliver Richardson, UK
I find a lot of doctors arrogant. Nurses on the other hand are generally very approachable. I get the impression some doctors go into the profession to look down on people.
Oliver Richardson, UK

Well, nurses do tend to wear more appealing uniforms.
Anon, UK

A nurse offers care, advice, comfort, reassurance and a good service for a lot less than what they should be paid.
Ed, UK

Who provides a better quality of health care?



854 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

01 Apr 02 | Health
Nurse prescribing role expands
13 Apr 00 | Health
Patients 'prefer nurses'
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