Report finds patients 'too trusting' of their local GP

SOUTH-west patients seeing their local GPs are putting their safety at risk because of an “assumed sense of safety”, researchers say.

A study by the Greater Green Triangle University Department of Rural Health has found longstanding trust in regular family GPs could be masking the ability of patients to spot problems or risks. 

Research leader Andrea Hernan said patients assumed the care they were receiving was safe because of a trusting and ongoing relationship, as opposed to hospitals where patients are more alert. 

“When patients went to see their GP it was a different perspective they took,” Ms Hernan said. The study covered about 26 people from Portland, Hamilton, Balmoral and Merino, who were asked to identify any harm that could occur during a visit to a GP. 

“In terms of physical harm that could occur that could be treatment error, misdiagnosis, prescription errors,” Ms Hernan said. “But only those who experienced any level of harm would comment on that. Those who hadn’t experienced that could not comment on safety in general.”

The study’s findings are significant as it places it at odds with similar research into hospitals, where patients have a “high awareness” of things that can go wrong.

“Many of the participants had an assumed sense of safety in the rural general practice setting,” the report said. 

“An assumed sense of safety is a concern, given that general practice is the first point of contact for most people seeking medical care, and its high-volume actions and frequency of adverse events.” 

The report said high levels of trust “may mask the patient’s ability to identify possible threats to safety and hence reduce risk awareness”.

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