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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Patients must 'not be forced to choose between access and continuity of care', says RCGP

Cutting waiting times for a GP appointment should be a priority for the incoming government, but not at the expense of continuity of care, the RCGP has said in its pre-election report.

In its report, Patient access to general practice: ideas and challenges from the front line, the college argues that significantly more GPs and extra funding for general practice are vital to increase patient access to GP service.

The RCGP says there are five main methods for improving access: investing in infrastructure; having sufficient numbers of GPs; harnessing of technology; enhancing continuity of care for patients with complex needs; and pooling resources across practices through federations.

The report also concludes there is little evidence that online consultations reduce workload or save money. 

It describes a trial in Central London which showed that Skype consultations typically took ten minutes compared to five for a phone call. In another pilot in Blackpool, however, Skype consultations have proved ‘particularly popular’ with housebound older people, the RCGP report states.

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘Given the number and range of ideas currently being tested out in general practice in this area it is vital that projects are properly evaluated, and evidence is gathered and published on what has been show to work in some areas and what has not.

‘General practice is the cornerstone of the health service – it keeps the NHS sustainable and our patients safe. We need to make sure that is in a position to keep doing so for years to come, and this will only be possible with more GPs, more resources and the tools we need to do our jobs properly.’

Readers' comments (6)

  • Skpe may be "particularly popular" amongst some patient groups but that doesnt mean that it is cost efficient or clinically useful. Look at health checks or "MoTs" of the general population - popular but.................

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  • John Glasspool

    Glad I have just sent in my resignation letter.

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  • i'm surprised it took you so long, John.

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  • Shall I highlight to Maureen Baker that patients want access to a doctor. They are not interested in continuity of care. For the public, patents, it is seeing a doctor, that is why patients turn up in walk in centres, urgent care, OOH, A/E All the mantra of continuity of care is for professional. Moreover, it is continuity of medical records which is important. Care cannot be provided by one person.

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  • Salaried 1042, you are correct but only to a point. I have hundreds of patients that hang on to see me. They could be seen by someone else but I know them their history without scouring the notes and can deal with them more efficiently. The benefit of 20 years in one place.

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  • Gosh Salaried 10:42, I'm sorry you are so disillusioned with general practice.

    I've been in my practice for only 5 years but I have host of patients that would wait to see me, sometimes even when they really shouldn't. When I suggested they should see someone else if they are ill and I'm unavailable, their answer is - but doctor, you know me well, you know my history and I TRUST YOU. This has to be the cornerstone of general practice.

    Having said that, RCGP needs to be honest - I can't work 24/7, 365/year. If access it to be increased, it means more doctors. More doctors usually means loss of continuity of care as patients will end s seeing available doctor, rather then one they want to see.

    RCGP membership cancelled!

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