Benefits of Continuity of Care
Jun 24, 2022
Continuity of care is the jewel in the crown of UK general practice as it is highly valued by both patients and GPs alike. But what is it and why does it matter?
What is continuity of care?
Seeing the same GP and healthcare team long-term is hugely beneficial to a patient. It allows patients and clinicians to develop a relationship of trust. GPs are able to build accurate care plans through in-depth knowledge of family history and also ensure that a patient’s records are passed seamlessly between different parts of the health service. Many GPs would agree that continuity of care is the essence of good general practice.
Why does it matter?
In 2018, the British Journal of General Practice carried out the largest ever study into ‘continuity of care’ and the positive effects it has on a patient. Researchers analysed the health records of over 4.5 million people and their findings were remarkable.
Patients who’d had the same family doctor for many years were 30% less likely to need out of hours services and 30% less likely to require acute hospitalisation. The study also revealed a 25% reduction in mortality rates when compared with patients who’d been registered with their GP for under a year.
There are other benefits too. By getting to know and trust a GP, patients are more likely to follow lifestyle advice, attend regular screenings and vaccination appointments as well as sticking with treatments and prescribed medications. They’re also less likely to question whether to ‘bother’ their doctor for so-called minor complaints such as a common cold. This over time results in fewer referrals.
Key benefits of continuity of care:
- Increased understanding and trust within the doctor / patient relationship.
- Improved insight into patient issues.
- Consistency in reviewing and managing a patient’s medical records.
- Reduces acute hospital admissions and ‘out of hours’ care.
- Studies have shown it is strongly associated with lower mortality rates.
- Higher levels of patient and GP satisfaction.
- Better overall healthcare outcomes.
Is it still attainable in post-pandemic Britain?
Once upon a time continuity of care was common practice in the UK when most people would have been able to name their ‘family doctor’ and average households would have been cared for by the same GP for a number of years.
However, in more recent times, leading practitioners have expressed concerns that the push towards working ‘at scale’ is putting a huge strain on the NHS and that continuity of care is declining rapidly.
Many larger practices are overpopulated leading to what has been labelled as ‘taxi-rank’ medicine where few people see the same GP. Add to this a recent pandemic with a shift away from face-to-face consultations and the odds become further stacked against it.
How do I access the best continuity of care?
It doesn’t take long to build the foundations of continuity of care. Research has shown that patients’ relationships with their doctors are typically deepened over their first eight meetings, while a doctor’s sense of responsibility for a patient was increased after two meetings.
These days more and more people are turning to private GP practices in order to access first-class continuity of care. This is because many private clinics are founded on the model of the traditional family doctor relationship and have core values that are built on delivering the highest standard of continuity of care.
Private family GPs know the person sitting in front of them, their preferences, their healthcare and support needs. They have the time and resources to be able to deliver this long-term – putting you back in control of your health and well-being.