Polyclinics will destroy trust between patients and GPs
A breakdown in the patient-doctor relationship would in turn lead to more ill health, researchers warn.
More than 1.3 million patients signed a petition against the proposals for large scale polyclinics earlier this year.
GPs argue that patients will lose the bond with their family doctor under the plans, which include housing large numbers of GPs under one roof along with specialisms such as minor surgery and dentistry.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has warned that patients will be unlikely to see the same doctor each time they visit a polyclinic.
The labour Government insists that the changes are necessary to give patients a “world class” service and that, outside London, the clinics will provide extra capacity in so-called under-doctored areas.
The new study shows that patients trust family doctors less if they often have to see different GPs.
Researchers surveyed 243 patients registered at three different surgeries.
They found that 83.5 per cent of patients who always saw their regular GP had a high level of trust in their doctor.
That figure fell to just 72.6 per cent of those who often saw different GPs, the research, published online in the British Journal of General Practice, shows.
Dr Carolyn Tarrant, part of the team which carried out the study at the University of Leicester, said: “The government is setting up numerous polyclinics, super-surgeries, and walk-in centres all over the country.
“I’m sure they will have various benefits for patients and GPs, but they are bound to reduce continuity of care, and our research shows that this may lead to a decline in patient trust. If patient trust declines, then medical outcomes may be adversely affected.”
Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA’s GP Committee, said: “Trust and continuity of care are exactly the reasons why general practice can’t be delivered supermarket style, where choice and convenience come above everything else.
“For someone with a chronic condition, a long-term relationship with a doctor they trust and who knows their history is vital.
“GPs and patients believe polyclinics will damage that relationship, it’s just the labour Government that doesn’t.”
The proposals were set out by Lord Darzi, the health minister, as part of his root and branch review of the health service.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said that the “overriding objective” of the new centres was to deliver the best possible service to patients.