Patients Have Confidence in Doctors Who Communicate Well
Sep 14, 2005 - 9:20:38 PM

Results from attitude surveys commissioned by the GMC from MORI and NOP World during spring/summer 2005 show that over four out of five patients are confident in their doctor and that this confidence is directly correlated with the doctor’s ability to provide adequate information, underlining how much good communication skills influence the way in which the general public responds to their doctor.

996 members of the public, 203 GPs and 100 hospital doctors were interviewed in May and June and a range of questions relating to the doctor patient relationship, confidence in the regulatory systems and complaint procedures were put to them.

For the 7 per cent expressing a lack of confidence in their doctor, this mainly reflected their sense of the doctor’s poor listening and explaining skills. Doctors themselves believe that good communication skills are central to gaining patients’ trust with at least three-quarters of both GPs and hospital doctors agreeing that these are key.

When asked whether they would make a complaint if they had cause to, over four out of five members of the public said they would. For those who wouldn’t, almost 3 in 10 would be put off by the bureaucracy, a quarter wouldn’t know how to and around one in five believes they wouldn’t be listened to, or wouldn’t want to make a fuss.

In line with GMC concerns about improving the links between local systems of governance and national regulation, over a third of GPs and 3 in 10 hospital doctors expressed a lack of confidence in regulation, provided through the way in which local governance and appraisal systems are linked to the GMC. These concerns are also demonstrated by the fact that although around half of GPs said they were happy with clinical governance information being used as the basis for revalidation of their registration with the GMC, approaching one in five said they lacked confidence in it and almost three in ten were unable to say either way.

Over half of the public expressed confidence in the regulatory system and almost all (94 per cent) said there should be regular checks to make sure that doctors are up to date with their knowledge and skills required to do their job.

President of the GMC, Professor Sir Graeme Catto, said:

“This pilot survey has given the GMC some extremely useful insights into how the public and the profession regard doctors and how they are regulated. It is clear that the public continue to hold doctors in high regard but only as long as those doctors are able to communicate well. Patients expect to be treated with respect and given proper information about any proposed treatment. When doctors are able to listen and explain, patients respond by trusting their advice.

“It is also undeniable that there are concerns being expressed within the profession about how effectively local clinical governance and national regulation work together. This mirrors the GMC’s own assessment and will help to inform our future activity. We expect to make this an annual tracking survey in order to measure how far improvements in our own and other regulators’ policies have impacted on the public’s confidence in the profession and its regulation.”

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