The doctor will see you ALL now: Patients to be asked to share GP appointments with up to 14 others
- New NHS scheme may see patients sharing GP appointments with 14 others
- Patients of long-term conditions will be invited to group sessions to discuss care
- The two-hour appointments will typically be led by admin or healthcare staff
Patients are to be asked to share GP appointments with up to 14 other people.
Already undergoing a trial at dozens of surgeries, the NHS scheme is aimed at saving cash and doctors’ time.
Sufferers of long-term conditions – such as diabetes, asthma and arthritis – will be invited to the group sessions to discuss their care.
The two-hour appointments will typically be led by admin staff or healthcare assistants.
A new NHS scheme may see patients sharing GP appointments with up to 14 other people. It is aimed at saving doctor’s time and cash and is already undergoing a trial at dozens of surgeries
Doctors will attend for around an hour to discuss tests and treatments.
Patients will have to sign confidentiality waivers to ensure they do not discuss details of other people’s ailments afterwards.
The conference of the Royal College of GPs was told yesterday the group sessions will be rolled out nationally later this year as part of a new ten-year plan for the NHS.
Health chiefs want the approach to become the default care option for those with long-term conditions.
At present, many of these patients book regular, individual appointments.
Doctors admit the plans require ‘a leap of faith’ but say trials have shown that sessions involving up to 15 people are good for patients, save money and spare GPs from having to repeat the same advice over and over.
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Other benefits include patients effectively having longer consultations and learning from the experiences of others.
Alison Manson, who is leading the national training for group consultations, said: ‘It’s a different way of consulting with patients – it’s a one-to-one clinical consultation delivered in a supportive peer-group setting.
‘In primary care, that’s largely done with everybody in the room listening in and contributing to the care of that patient.
‘The interesting thing is that you may only have a matter of a couple of minutes with each patient but they leave the session feeling like they’ve had 45 minutes or an hour of your time and that’s a massive thing for patients.
They can’t believe that they’re getting all this time with the GP, nurse or hospital doctor.’
Patients will have to sign confidentiality waivers to ensure they do not discuss details of other people’s ailments afterwards
Many GP surgeries are in crisis with heavy workloads, with one in seven family doctor posts empty. Vacancy rates are up three-fold in six years.
Dr Emily Symington, a GP in Croydon, south London, who runs a group session, said it helped cope with demand.
‘If we are going to start to address the tide of lifestyle conditions and long-term conditions we need to start thinking about how we do things differently,’ she added.
‘Group consultations have started to address that. It is putting people in control. It takes a bit of a leap of faith.
The practices who have had the best success with group consultations are those that have taken the plunge and made group consultations the default method of care for certain long-term conditions.
Research has shown that group appointments in psychiatry, diabetes and elderly care can reduce waiting times, emergency admissions and hospital bed days
We have a practice in Croydon where all diabetics have their annual reviews … done through groups. It’s been massively successful.’
The consultations are normally held monthly, and GPs say they are more relaxed than ten-minute appointments.
But Joyce Robins, of the campaign group Patient Concern, said group consultations were ‘a ghastly idea’.
She added: ‘GP appointments are supposed to be a private matter where you can openly talk about your most personal health issues.
‘If you’re discussing things in front of a group of strangers, you might as well tell the local town crier so he can shout it from the rooftops.
Many people will feel incredibly uncomfortable with this idea, especially if they know their weight and BMI is going to be on the wall for all to see.’
Research has shown that group appointments in psychiatry, diabetes and elderly care can reduce waiting times, emergency admissions and hospital bed days.
Statistics from the innovation group Nesta found that consultants using group clinics saw 15 patients in the time it had previously taken to see nine.
GPs say the group model could be extended further and offered to pregnant women, men with erectile dysfunction and even for recipients of the flu vaccine.
Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘Group consultations could be helpful to some patients by providing an opportunity to have discussions about their conditions.
‘It could also be reassuring to patients to see others share their concerns and challenges, and can provide the benefit of peer support.
‘But patients must be given the choice as to whether to participate, or to continue with more traditional GP services.’
The group sessions have been trialled at GP surgeries in London, Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle.
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