Patients who see the same doctor at every appointment are far less likely to die early, a major study has found.
They are more open about their symptoms, more trusting of medical advice and more inclined to take their prescription.
The research looked at 22 studies covering more than 1.4 million patients from countries such as the UK, the US, France and the Netherlands. Eighteen of the studies showed patients were significantly more likely to die in a given period if they had appointments with different doctors or hospital consultants.
The findings, from the University of Exeter Medical School, will cause concern as most patients are now unable to see the same GP at each appointment because surgeries are so short-staffed.
Hospitals are also understaffed and patients at specialist outpatient clinics often see different junior doctors rather than the consultant supervising their care.
The study’s lead author Sir Denis Pereira Gray, a former president of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘Patients have long known that it matters which doctor they see and how well they can communicate with them.
‘Until now arranging for patients to see the doctor of their choice has been considered a matter of convenience or courtesy: now it is clear it is about the quality of medical practice and is literally a matter of life and death.’
One US study found nearly a fifth of diabetes patients – 18.5 per cent – who saw different GPs died within three years. This compared to just 8 per cent of those who saw the same doctor every time.
A British study found patients who were able to see their preferred GP were less likely to die from cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a severe lung condition linked to smoking.