UK primary care best among many developed countries, survey says

UK general practice outperforms many other developed nations around the world for patient satisfaction, a survey suggests.

Patients with chronic diseases reported more positive experiences and better quality care in UK primary care than countries including the US, Sweden, Germany and Australia.

The survey by US-based The Commonwealth Fund also found that the NHS provides better access both in- and out-of-hours, and patients incurred fewer out-of-pocket costs.

The NHS scored consistently better than almost every other nation in the survey. Only patients in Switzerland received similar levels of care.

Overall, 88% of UK general practice patients described their care as excellent or very good. This was higher than any other country surveyed, and compared with 77% in the US, 49% in France and 39% in Germany.

RCGP chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada said GPs and their teams could be 'proud' of the results.

'The Commonwealth Fund Survey shows yet again that the excellent work carried out by GPs in the UK is recognised worldwide, leading the field in providing quality, joined-up care. The NHS stands out internationally as an example of excellence, and general practice is what makes the NHS safe, fair and value for money.'

She added: 'If the current reform of the NHS is to achieve anything, it must preserve and build on the strengths of general practice by producing more GPs, who are trained for longer so that we can do even more to improve the health of our patients.

In the survey, UK general practice performed particularly well on attributes such as access, familiarity with patients and co-ordination of complex care.

Likewise, the NHS overall scored highly on the patient-doctor relationship, sharing of information between providers and avoiding medical, medication and laboratory errors.

Just 21% of UK patients said obtaining out-of-hours care was difficult, compared with 56% in Australia and 55% in the US and France.

Researchers concluded: ‘Patient responses in the UK and Switzerland were often among the most positive about access, coordination, safety, and engaging patients, and rarely at the bottom of the country range.’

However, UK patients had comparatively low rates of patient-reported BP control. Researchers suggested more could be done through the QOF to focus on true outcomes, instead of process measures, to improve BP control

The report also warned that in all countries in the survey, complex care was sometimes poorly co-ordinated.

The survey questioned 18,667 people across Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the US, and included 1,001 respondents from the UK. Questions covered various indicators of care quality and patient experience.

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