A King's Fund poll, which will feed into its wide-ranging inquiry into general practice, revealed that, on average, GPs and other practice staff think 83 per cent of practices in England provide high-quality care.
Asked what should be prioritised for improvement, 57 per cent of respondents identified continuity of care.
Just one in five thought access to care should be prioritised, despite its high profile in recent debates on health reforms.
Nick Goodwin, senior fellow at the King's Fund and director of its GP inquiry, said: 'While access to GP services is clearly important and has been the focus of recent NHS reforms, GPs and patients are telling us that continuity of care should be a significant aspect in delivering quality improvements in general practice.'
Mr Goodwin has previously said the GP inquiry will produce 'some illustrative examples' of ways to measure the more personal and often overlooked aspects of healthcare that GPs and patients value, like continuity of care (GP, 10 May).
A report setting out the findings of the inquiry is expected to be published early next year.
Meanwhile, the survey also showed that more than half of GPs think patient surveys and revalidation are the least effective ways to approach quality improvement.
The majority of respondents think clinical best practice guidance is the most effective approach, followed by pay-for performance mechanisms, such as the QOF. But 57 per cent of respondents thought patient surveys were the least effective approach to quality improvement, followed by revalidation (54 per cent) and balanced scorecards (53 per cent).