Nurses cost more and take longer than GPs

It is more expensive for patients to be seen by a nurse practitioner than a GP because the consultations are longer and involve GPs anyway, according to research.

A consultation with a nurse practitioner will typically cost a practice 16p more than a visit to a salaried GP.

Thirty per cent of the cost of the consultation with a nurse was down to involving a GP, Sandra Hollinghurst, a health economist from Bristol University, found.

However, as 'nurses gain wider experience and as the regulation of nurse prescribing is relaxed' the cost was likely to come down, she concluded.

Halving the GP involvement in nurses' consultations would turn the tables and make a typical consultation with a GP £1.26 more expensive than with a nurse.

Dr Alison Crumbie, nurse practitioner at Windermere Health Centre, said access to the full BNF had 'vastly reduced' the need to consult a GP.

Ms Hollinghurst examined data from 30 practices covering more than 2,600 patients.

Nurses in the study spent almost seven minutes more than GPs on a consultation. They needed to ask GPs for advice and have prescriptions signed and their patients were much more likely to be back in surgery for a GP follow-up within two weeks.

North Staffordshire LMC secretary Dr Paul Golik said: 'Nurse practitioners can take all afternoon doing something a GP can do in an hour but we have a doctor shortage, so we have to make the best use of our skills.

'Nurse triage can save a lot of time for GPs, and let you stretch your GP resources further, but it's an expensive way to do it.'

COST OF A CONSULTATION

GP - £9.30

Nurse - £9.46. Source: BJGP.

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