GP practices should listen more to patients, Labour conference told

GP practices should listen more to patients and would benefit from becoming more accountable, a senior GP told a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference.

Dr Brian Fisher: call for GP practices to be more accountable to patients (Photo: Dan Wootton)
Dr Brian Fisher: call for GP practices to be more accountable to patients (Photo: Dan Wootton)

Central Manchester Foundation Trust non-executive clinical director Dr Ivan Benett told delegates at the event in Liverpool that most GPs 'do not listen' to patient concerns and the service was 'no more democratically accountable than the greengrocer'.

Dr Benett, who serves as 'freedom to speak up guardian' with the hospital FT, told a meeting organised by Labour's Socialist Health Association on democratic accountability in the NHS that most practices only 'pay lip service' to patient participation groups.

'In theory general practices do have patient participation groups (PPGs), and they are very variable in how they respond and work with [them],' he said.

GP accountability

The GP, who has previously served on the Manchester LMC executive, urged Labour party members to join their practice's PPG to help make practices more accountable to patients. 'Everybody on the left should become a member of their GP patient participation group,' Dr Benett told the conference.

'Make the GPs listen to what the problems are. Make them change. Most of them do not listen.'

Dr Benett told GPonline that practices would benefit from being more accountable to patients.

'If patients were encouraged to join PPGs, work with the practice to improve the practice, to work positively with complaints, work positively with the ideas of the PPGs they would generally be more forward-looking,' he said. 'There are examples of good practice, lots of practices that do that, but also lots of practices that don't.

'If we are genuinely going to improve democratic accountability, practices need to be more attentive to what [patients] have to say. There are a lot of benefits to be gained for general practice and general practitioners by involving patients in their care.'

He added: 'One of the problems with general practice at the moment is it is overwhelmed with demand. Better use of the ideas of their patients will help to manage that demand. Not only getting patients to work out ways of managing their own conditions, but also patients being more aware of how to more appropriately use the health system.'

Patient participation

Socialist Health Association honorary vice president and south London GP Dr Brian Fisher told the meeting that giving patients better online access to their GP records and encouraging community involvement in health services could improve accountability and health.

'When people have access to their records and can take charge of the way they interact with the health services, with their GPs,' said Dr Fisher, 'we can change their confidence, their relationships with their practice, their trust in the NHS.'

'They start improving the way they understand their care, they start improving the way the way they take their medicines,' he said.

The left, Dr Fisher said, needed to think about how to encourage more community involvement in services.

'We have important evidence that if communities can be supported to set the agenda for themselves on the issues that matter to them, and then start going to the statutory agencies responsible for their areas, and if they take control of that conversation, then enormously important things start happening,' he said.

'People's health improves. We can help tackle health inequalities. Statutory agencies become more responsive. And also individual health behaviours improve.'

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