Group consultations 'reduce demand and improve efficiency' for GPs

Group consultations can help 'reduce demand and improve efficiency' for GPs and empower patients with long-term health issues to self-care, the RCGP annual conference has been told.

Dr Emily Symington (Photo: Pete Hill)
Dr Emily Symington (Photo: Pete Hill)

Speaking at the conference in Glasgow on Friday, Dr Emily Symington, a GP and member of the governing body of Croydon CCG in south London, urged the audience to ‘take a leap of faith’ by embedding group consultations into general practice. She said that GPs were ‘kidding themselves’ if they thought long-term conditions could be managed effectively under the current 10-minute consultation model.

Also speaking at the event, Alison Manson, national training lead for group consultations, explained that group consutlations were a ‘one-to-one clinical consultations delivered in a supportive group setting with around 10-15 patients [who usually have] a similar condition and a similar set of clinical problems’.

She said: ‘[Group consultations are] managed by a process facilitator so you as the clinician are not there for the full time, you join the session about 20 minutes in when a lot of the footwork has been done for you.

‘They last for about an hour and a half to two hours but the clinician will only be there for about 45 minutes. The interesting thing is that you may only have a matter of a couple of minutes with each patient but they leave the session feeling that they’ve had 45 minutes to an hour of your time and that’s a massive thing for patients  - they just can’t believe that they’re getting all this time with the GP or nurse - whoever the clinician happens to be.’

She added that group consultations also 'empower patients' by promoting self care.

Group consultations

Dr Symington said: ‘With a group consultation, because you’re seeing more people in one go you can see them more frequently, more quickly, it’s easier to provide continuity of care and accessibility [ for patients]... We have not yet had a single patient who has come out the other side of a group consultation and has not said it wasn’t a good thing.’

She said that statistics from innovation foundation NESTA had found that consultants applying group clinics in outpatient settings saw 15 patients in the time it had previously taken to see nine, representing a 40% productivity gain.

‘People say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, and maybe we’re a little guilty of that in the health service,' Dr Symington said. 'If we’re going to start to address the tide of lifestyle conditions and long-term conditions we need to start thinking what we can do differently, because at the moment were not in our one-to-one model. It’s getting worse.

'But, for me, group consultations have started to address that. They address a lot of the challenges we grapple with on a day to day basis They reduce demand and improve efficiency.'

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