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A faulty production line

GP numbers to plummet as nurses 'take on 70% of work'

By Lilian Anekwe

GPs will gradually disappear from frontline clinical practice in the future, to be replaced by nurses trained to take on a variety of new roles, a leading academic predicts.

A new analysis suggests far fewer GPs are needed than are currently employed, and claims as much as 70% of care in general practice could be delivered by nurses.

The bold a predictions are made by Professor Bonnie Sibbald, professor of health services research at the National Primary Care Research and Development centre.

In an editorial, published in the latest edition of the journal Quality in Primary Care, Professor Sibbald asks: ‘So do we need doctors in general practice? The answer is probably Yes, but far fewer than presently. Nurses can deliver most clinical care, leaving doctors to deal with that minority of patients who have complex medical problems.'

She adds that the Government has now taken down the ‘barriers' that previously stopped nurses from expanding their role in primary care, with initiatives such as improved nurse training and the removal of prescribing restrictions. She says it is now time to tackle ‘the most difficult' obstacle - the fact that ‘the overwhelming majority of practices are owned by GPs who are understandably reluctant to hand control to nurses'.

‘The true frontline providers of general practice in the future are most likely to be nurses, with GPs providing back-up at the invitation of nurses,' she added.

RCGP Professor Steve Field, RCGP chair, was sceptical. ‘There's no doubt the role of the GP is going to evolve, but I really don't see it as a simple issue of needing fewer GPs as we pass work over to nurses.'

Killing off GPs: nurses set to replace GPs in future, claims report Killing off GPs: nurses set to replace GPs in future, claims report

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