70% of UK GPs back delegating work

UK GPs are among the most willing in Europe to delegate work to other professionals according to a new survey.

A total of 399 GPs from the UK, France, Italy, Germany and Spain took part in a poll carried out by researchers Stethos for the French general practice magazine Le Generaliste.

It found those in Spain were more willing to delegate to other professionals in their practice 85 per cent compared with 69.6 per cent in the UK, 53.2 per cent in Germany, 40 per cent in Italy and 35.8 per cent in France. UK GPs were the most likely to work in networks with paramedics.

UK GPs were also the least concerned about patients having a consultation with them before seeing a pharmacist or being hospitalised.

Eighty-five per cent said it should be mandatory to see a GP before seeing a specialist, compared with 83 per cent in France, 89 per cent in Spain, 94 per cent in Germany and 97 per cent in Italy.

A third of UK GPs saw their role as providing continuity of care and monitoring of pathologies compared with just over a quarter who said it was to act as the patient's initial contact with the healthcare system.

GPs in France and Italy viewed their main role as providing a comprehensive approach to patient care while the Spanish felt it should be providing a first point of contact with the health service.

London GP Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the results showed the evolution of UK general practice which had moved on from a 'gatekeeping' role.

'Primary care provides a range of responses to patient needs which is prompting higher delegation and greater teamwork,' he said. 'It provides the bulk of chronic disease management, compared to Europe where it is still treated in hospitals.'

However Professor Alan Maynard, a health economist at York University, said the only reason UK GPs delegated more than German GPs was because it did not affect their income.

'If I could get the same wage but have someone else teach for me, I'd delegate as well,' he said.

The survey of 399 GPs also found that UK GPs were more likely to think of themselves as independent experts whereas German GPs felt they were more akin to business owners.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said with the introduction of practice-based commissioning and increased competition, UK GPs would think of themselves in business-like terms in the future.

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