Lack of co-ordination between services undermining patient care, GPs warn

Four out of five UK GPs say care for one of their patients has been undermined in the past month because of a lack of co-ordination between health and care providers, a report has warned.

UK GPs are far more likely to report problems with patient care triggered by a lack of integration between services than family doctors in other countries, the Health Foundation analysis of survey data from the Commonwealth Fund found.

The health charity's analysis showed that 79% of UK GPs said a patient's care had been adversely affected in the last month by a lack of integration between different health and care providers. Just 48% of GPs reported this as a problem on average across other countries assessed in the Commonwealth Fund survey.

Findings from the Commonwealth Fund published earlier this year revealed that GPs in the UK were the most stressed of any in western countries because of soaring workload and bureaucracy, confirming warnings from earlier BMA and government-backed polls.

GP workload

The Under pressure report from the Health Foundation shows that GPs are more likely to report problems co-ordinating care with social services or community health organisations than family doctors elsewhere.

Seven out of 10 UK GPs said this was 'somewhat or very difficult', higher than any of the 11 nations covered by the Commonwealth Fund poll.

GPs in the UK were also more likely to report having to repeat tests or procedures because results were unavailable, the report found.

The Health Foundation also highlighted a collapse in recent years in the proportion of UK GPs who think the country's general practice system does not need reform. In 2012, 46% felt the service was working well and needed only minor change, but in 2015 this figure fell to 22%.

Health Foundation policy fellow Edward Davies said: 'Action needs to be taken to ensure patients consistently receive high quality care and don’t become entangled in the complicated web connecting different parts of the health and care system in the UK.

NHS integration

'GPs are reporting challenges co-ordinating care for their patients with different parts of the system, especially social services and community providers. UK GPs report the highest number of patients experiencing problems as a result of poor co-ordination of care.'

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said: 'It is no surprise that this report has found such high levels of stress among GPs in the UK compared to other countries when you consider that despite increasing workload, both in terms of volume and complexity, resources into general practice have been decreasing over the last 10 years and our workforce has remained relatively stagnant.

"Investing in general practice makes sense. Our service is the most cost-effective form of care, it alleviates pressures across the health service, and it is delivered in the community, close to home, where our patients want it most – but it needs significant investment to allow this to continue.'

Photo: iStock

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