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A study was undertaken by the Greater London Association for the Disabled in consultation with the Royal College of General Practitioners, to explore the depth of knowledge of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act and statutory and voluntary social provision, of 22 general practitioners in 16 practices served by one area social services office in a London borough.
The doctors were mainly middle-aged, of British or Irish birth and training and had no language barrier. The majority lived in or near their practices. Half the practices were groups or partnerships, half were singlehanded. Only in three groups was there any attached district nursing staff and in only one was there an attached health visitor. More than half the general practitioners had reception staff only during surgery hours. Four practices had no reception staff during National Health Service surgery hours, two of which had no reception staff at all. In no practice was there any privately employed nursing staff. All the practices had private patients.
Nine of the 22 doctors in the study had never heard of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, and a further five had not mentioned the Act to their patients. Fifty per cent had no knowledge of the extent of functional disability in their practice. More than half the doctors knew no more of the social services than that home helps and meals-on-wheels were available, while six doctors knew of no provision at all. Knowledge and use of the voluntary services was almost non-existent. No meetings with team members were held, other than in the group practices with attached staff, and the team members were largely unknown to most of the doctors.
Attempts were made through various channels to extend the knowledge of the general practitioners of the services provided by both statutory and voluntary agencies, and to introduce them and their receptionists to their team, but little use was made of the opportunity.