Health Education England’s new report could be “a valuable lifeline” to “rescue” general practice, the Royal College of GPs said.
To expand the workforce the landmark report recommended handing over half of admin to medical assistants, which would create the equivalent of 1,400 more full time GPs, and that patients are often be seen by new types of healthcare professional such as physician associates.
“The voice of hardworking frontline GPs has been heard and reflected in the report,” said Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGPs).
It also recommended that practices form networks or federations, as do community pharmacies, and that in-practice pharmacists help patients manage minor illness and advise them on medicine optimisation.
Practice managers will need training and ongoing support to provide leadership, and practices need to agree clear criteria for what each professional will do, it said.
In terms of technology, the report suggested there must be a common primary care record, and deemed it “out-dated” that healthcare professionals working in primary care are unable to communicate freely with hospital specialists, for example, by using email and electronic messaging (and that this should become routine).
However, the RCGP warned that “we must not be blind to [technology's] limitations” and that ‘virtual’ correspondence with patients has the potential to increase workload.
Baker said: “We therefore support the Commission’s cautious approach to introducing email correspondence as a matter of course and its recommendations for piloting to ensure that this doesn’t add to workload overall.
“This important report has the potential to be a game-changer if the Government and others take heed and act on its recommendations. If this happens, we are confident that the benefits it delivers to general practice, the NHS and our patients will be immense,” she affirmed.