The number of patient consultations in general practice has increased by 15% over the past five years, three times greater than the increase in general practitioners, an analysis on the extent of the crisis facing general practice by the King’s Fund has revealed.
Face-to-face consultations have increased by 13% and telephone consultations by 63%, data show. The biggest rise in consultations (up 28%) was for patients aged over 85 years, who are more likely to have more complex health needs.
A total of 30 million patient contacts at 177 practices were analysed for the report, and a number of practice staff were interviewed. The report says that new roles introduced to the primary care team, including pharmacists, paramedics, health care assistants, physician associates, health coaches and specialist nurses “have the potential to alleviate part of the burden and intensity felt by GPs in managing patients with both acute and long-term conditions”.
The report says an effort to engage these professional groups might help to relieve pressure in the short term while also being consistent with the long-term direction of NHS Five-Year Forward View policy.
Recent figures show that disillusioned GPs are opting to work part time or are retiring early, therefore it is hoped that new primary care roles will alleviate pressure in general practices.
Five years after qualifying, only 1 in 10 new GP trainees plan to be work full-time seeing patients in general practice. Between 2005 and 2014, the proportion of GPs aged between 55 and 64 leaving the profession doubled, and between 2009 and 2014, 46% of GPs leaving the profession were under 50.