RCGP draws up plan to make consultations 50% longer

GPs could be encouraged to offer consultations of 15 minutes or more in a bid to provide more 'holistic' care for patients under RCGP proposals.

Dr Gerada: 'It is the GP that makes the NHS safer, fairer, kinder and - for those who worry about these sorts of things - also cheaper'

The college is considering whether GPs could routinely offer longer consultations to patients with long-term conditions, after a report ruled 10-minute visits are now 'very short' to offer patient-centred care.

The RCGP will also push for a larger role for patient feedback to improve practice services, develop plans with the GPC for GP-led 'round the clock' responsibility for patients' care, and consider changes to the law to register GPs as specialists.

The college revealed its plans at the launch of its response to the Independent Commission on Generalism report on Tuesday.

This called for generalism to be protected and expanded to improve care for patients as the NHS battles with financial austerity and rising rates of multiple comorbidities.

Speaking at the launch, RCGP chairwoman Professor Clare Gerada said: 'For me, the GP is the centre of the NHS, of healthcare. It is, I believe, the GP that makes the NHS safer, fairer, kinder and - for those who worry about these sorts of things - also cheaper.

'What we need to make sure as time moves on and as the NHS hits the financial buffers is that we invest in what works, which is the generalist and in particular the GP.'

She added: 'If we don't grab hold of continuity of care, in many ways we're losing the essence of our speciality.'

The report found that many GPs and patients are in favour of longer consultations to allow more thorough investigation of patients' problems.

In the report, the college said it 'agrees with the views... that 10 minutes is now very short to combine a patient-centred approach to information gathering, do a proper examination... and make an effective shared management plan'.

Speaking to GP at the event, Professor Amanda Howe, RCGP honorary secretary, said the college would soon begin a six-month project looking at how longer consultations could be introduced.

She conceded the plan would be 'contested': 'When we were consulting in the listening events people were saying we definitely need [longer consultations] but couldn't see how we're going to do it. What we've committeed ourselves to is certainly trying to open that up, so that we can try and think creatively how to do it in a way that works.'

Economic research is key
Professor Howe said research into the economic case will be key: 'If you do extend appointment times, how do you get the best value out of it?'

In the meantime, practices can develop the 'skills mix' among their GPs and staff, she said. Allowing other staff members such as nurse practitioners to see more patients would free up time for GPs to offer longer appointments to those with multiple needs.

She added: 'When we were consulting people were saying: "We're already doing 15-minute consultations." So you can maybe also just innovate by sharing good practice.'

The RCGP also announced it will work with the GPC to update good practice guidance for how GPs can take responsibility for 24-hour patient care. It forms part of the college's vision for GPs to take an 'oversight' role by proactively coordinating patients' care with specialists.

In September 2011, an RCGP report had called on GPs to offer half-hour consultations to help patients with long-term conditions to better manage their health.

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