Up to 27% of GP appointments could potentially be avoided if there was more coordination between practices and hospitals, according to a report from NHS Alliance and the Primary Care Foundation.
If family doctors did not spend time rearranging hospital appointments, and chasing up test results from local hospitals a “significant amount of GP time” could be freed up (4.5% of appointments in the study, an estimated 15 million appointments if repeated across England).
The report, Making Time In General Practice, also estimated one in six of the patients in the study could potentially have been seen by someone else in the wider primary care team, such as clinical pharmacists, practice nurses or physician assistants, or by being supported to meet their own health needs. Moreover, it suggested 4% of appointments might have been dealt with through social prescribing/better navigation.
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.”
To cut bureaucracy in practices, the report recommended that practices should employ a wider range of staff, and should free up time for GPs to think through how they can work differently, learning the lessons from the PM’s Challenge Fund sites and the Vanguard sites as they become available.
It also recommended that patients who are unable to attend a hospital appointment should be able to re-book within two weeks without going back to the GP and that NHS England should work with doctors to streamline communication, particularly between hospitals and practices, and reduce the workload of processing information within practices.
Finally it suggested that GP federations should be funded to work across their practices “to build practical social prescribing projects that offer real alternatives to taking up GP time with patients whose needs can be better met by other kinds of support in the wider community”.