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Patients who consult the same doctor, again and again, have lower mortality rates, a study suggests

    Abdulaziz Sobh
    By Abdulaziz Sobh

    Categories: Health

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    The benefits applied to visits to GPs and specialists were seen in different cultures and health systems.
    Researchers at the University of Exeter said the human aspect of medical practice was "potentially life-saving," but that it had been neglected.
    The leaders of the GPs said they recognized the value of patients seeing "their own" doctor.
    However, due to the intense pressures of the workforce, this could mean waiting even longer for an appointment, said the Royal College of GPs.
    It is known that continuity of care is particularly beneficial for patients with chronic conditions, long-term mental health problems, and complex needs.
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    The study, published in the BMJ Open, analyzed the results of 22 studies in nine countries, including England, France, the United States, Canada and South Korea.
    Eighteen of the studies indicated that contact with the same physician for an average of two years meant fewer deaths during the periods studied, compared to other patients.
    The researchers said continuity of care was important and should be given a higher priority in health care planning.
    'Better communication'
    Prof. Philip Evans, of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Exeter, said: "Continuity of care occurs when a patient and a doctor see each other and know each other.
    "This leads to better communication, patient satisfaction, compliance with medical advice and much less use of hospital services."
    Sir Denis Pereira Gray, from St Leonard's practice in Exeter, who also worked on the study, said: "Patients have known for a long time that it matters what doctor they see and how well they can communicate with them.
    "Until now, arranging for patients to see the doctor of their choice has been considered a matter of convenience or courtesy.
    "Now, it's clear that it's about the quality of medical practice and it's literally 'a matter of life and death'."
    Team effort
    Professor Kamila Hawthorne, vice president of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), said many practices were trying different approaches, such as assigning a team of health professionals, including a GP, who had access to their records and could build relationships. with them.
    She said: "Balancing the continuity of care with timely access to GP services is a big challenge for general practice, and ultimately, the answer is more GPs and more resources for the profession."
    NHS England has pledged an additional £ 2.4bn per year for general practice and an additional 5,000 GPs by 2020.
    The RCGP said that these should be delivered to safeguard the future of general practice and patient care.