As many as 16% of all appointments with GPs could be carried out by practice nurses, physician associates and other members of the primary care team, a report by NHS Alliance and the Primary Care Foundation has found.
The report, Making time in general practice, looked at 5128 GP consultations performed in England. It found that 6.5% of appointments could have been seen by another professional in general practice, such as a practice nurse or a physician associate. A further 5.5% of appointments could have been seen in a community pharmacy, while 4% of appointments could have been dealt with through social prescribing or signposting to other services. The report recommends that practices should employ a wider range of staff within the team, with the decision on the type of staff left to the discretion of individual practices.
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.’
The report also found that as many as 27% of GP appointments could be avoided altogether if the NHS worked to reduce bureaucracy, strengthen communication between primary and secondary care, and improve IT systems. The report also called for action to be taken to reduce the amount of time staff spend inputting data into IT systems.
Dr Jonathan Serjeant, national lead for NHS Alliance¹s Accelerate programme, said: ‘GPs and their colleagues are experts in listening, supporting and diagnosing their patients. This is what we’ve been trained to do, and what we want to do. 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.’
The report was commissioned by NHS England as part of the work it is doing to implement the Five Year Forward View to strengthen primary care in England. The report was overseen by a steering group including the respresentatives from the Royal College of GPs and the BMA's GP Committee.