Authoritative Report Suggests More Than 1-in-4 GP Appointments are Unnecessary

A new report suggests that needless bureaucracy is putting unnecessary pressure on GP appointments across the UK.

The report in question argues that as many as 27 per cent of GP appointments are ultimately avoidable.

The Making Time In General Practice study by NHS Alliance and the Primary Care Foundation suggest that one-in-four GP appointments could potentially be avoided if superior coordination between GPs and hospitals was carried out.

In addition, the report indicates that wider use of other primary care staff, better use of technology to streamline administrative burdens, and wider system changes could also have a positive impact on the existing situation.

The report was commissioned as part of the work that NHS England is currently carrying out with partner organisations as part of the implementation of the highly publicised NHS Five Year Forward View.

This prestigious report was also overseen by a steering group including the Royal College of GPs and the BMA GPs’ Committee.

There is a particular emphasis within the NHS Five Year Forward View of expanding and strengthening AGP services and primary care across England.

And with this in mind, the report finds that a significant amount of GP time could be freed up if family doctors were not having to spend time rearranging hospital appointments, and chasing up test results from local hospitals.

It is also estimated by the report that around 16 per cent of the patients in the study could potentially have been seen by someone else in the wider primary care team, such as clinical pharmacists, practice nurses or physician assistants, or by being supported to meet their own health needs.

A further 4 per cent of appointments might have been dealt with through social prescribing / navigation.

The study also suggest several practical steps that could be implemented in order to cut down on bureaucracy.

These include:

– offering patients who are unable to attend hospital appointments the ability to rebooked within two weeks without visiting a GP for a needless second appointment;

– employing a wider range of staff within the practice team;

– streamlining communication, particularly between hospitals and practices;

– GP federations should be funded to work across their practices to build practical social prescribing projects.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Dr Jonathan Serjeant, GP, co-director and co-founder of Brighton and Hove Integrated Care Service and National lead for NHS Alliance’s Accelerate programme, stated that the study provided some valuable insight in improving the working roles of GPs across England.

“GPs and their colleagues are experts in listening, supporting and diagnosing their patients. This is what we’ve been trained to do, and what we want to do. If applied quickly, the recommendations set out in this report, particularly those around extending the GP team to incorporate other health professionals, will help reduce the current levels of bureaucracy GPs face on a daily basis. The end result is that GP time is freed up, and people have access to all their information whenever they need it,” Serjeant observed.

Rick Stern, chief executive of NHS Alliance, and a director of the Primary Care Foundation added: “This report documents how general practice is struggling with an increasing workload and the urgent action required to relieve this burden. We want to ensure that GPs and their colleagues in general practice are freed up to deliver the job they were trained to do and care so passionately about.”


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