Children with long-term illness 'need named GPs and longer appointments'

Children diagnosed with a long-term condition should have longer appointments and a named GP to improve communication with secondary care services, researchers have said.

GPs see themselves as co-ordinators of care for children with long-term conditions, but are often 'unsure of their roles and responsibilities' in supporting them, research published in the BJGP found.

Improving communication between services involved in caring for patients in this group would help clarify roles and the confidence of primary care professionals, the researchers found.

Children with long-term conditions should have a named GP assigned to their family 'at diagnosis', who will take the lead on communicating with secondary care, the study recommended.

Named GP for chronic care

Specialist services involved in caring for the child should contact the named GP, with the specialist nurse and consultant 'encouraged to make personal contacts with the named GP to help further define roles'.

Longer appointments would give GPs more time to update themselves on patients' progress by catching up with information forwarded from secondary care, and more time to identify concerns of the patients and their families. Better use of technology to inform hospitals when patients attend primary care should also be rolled out, the study suggested.

The study found that some GPs 'assume' that secondary care will deliver certain aspects of care, and that GPs' experience and perception of the relationship with hospital services affected their view of the role they should play in caring for children with long-term conditions.

'The roles and responsibilities of primary care need to be better defined,' the University of Sheffield researchers wrote. 'It is evident that primary care professionals perceive that those working in secondary care are unaware of what they can provide, suggesting that better links between services would enable enhanced definitions of roles.'

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