NHS integration could cut GP appointments by a quarter, report suggests

Up to 27% of GP appointments could be avoided through better co-ordination between practices and hospitals, and through better use of skill mix and technology, experts believe.

A report by the NHS Alliance and the Primary Care Foundation, Making time in general practice, found that 15m appointments across England could be freed up if GPs did not have to spend time chasing up hospital results or re-booking acute appointments.

One in six patients in the study carried out as part of the report could have been seen by another member of the primary care team - such as a nurse or pharmacist.

Around 6.5% of appointments could have been redirected to another profession within the GP practice, the report found. Around 5% could have sought help from a local pharmacist or supported to self-care, while 4% could have benefited from 'social prescribing' - being directed to other local services.

Pressure on GPs

The report sets out five key steps to cut pressure on GPs:

  • Patients who are unable to attend a hospital appointment should be able to re-book within two weeks without going back to the GP.

  • Practices should employ a wider range of staff within the practice team.

  • NHS England will work with doctors to streamline communication, particularly between hospitals and practices.

  • Practices should free up time for GPs and other leaders in the practice to think through how they can work differently.

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

NHS Alliance GP Dr Jonathan Serjeant said: '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.'

Rick Stern, chief executive of NHS Alliance, and a director of the Primary Care Foundation said: '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.'

Dr. Robert Varnam, head of general practice development for NHS England, said: 'General practice is the bedrock of healthcare and NHS England commissioned this report because we are determined to support GPs in reducing the pressures they face.  The findings include helpful suggestions which should free GPs to spend more time with patients most in need and further ways to reduce the administrative burden.'

Photo: JH Lancy

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