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'We just want a level playing field'

Clinics run by GPs with a special interest reduce waiting times, increase patient satisfaction and are more accessible than their hospital counterparts, results from a Government-funded trial suggest.

The randomised controlled trial of a GP-run dermatology service in Bristol found waiting times were reduced by an average of around six weeks and there was no difference in clinical outcomes.

Patients reported greater satisfaction with the GPwSI service, which was also found to be much more accessible that the alternative consultant-led service.

Study leader Professor Chris Salisbury, professor of primary care at the University of Bristol and a GP in the city, said many PCTs had launched GPwSI services but until now there had been little evidence of benefit.

'We found the services were equally good in terms of clinical outcomes but the GPwSI service was definitely better with regards to waiting times and how accessible they were,' he said.

'As long as the service doesn't prove to be more expensive, PCTs may decide to go down that line because there are other advantages. Under payment by results everything is up for grabs.'

The study, presented earlier this month at the Society for Academic Primary Care annual meeting, randomised 556 dermatology patients referred by GPs from 30 practices to go either to hospital or to the

GPwSI service over 14 months. Patients were followed up at nine months.

Dr Inma Mauri Sole, a GP in Bristol and one of the

GPwSIs in the study, said there were many different models for running a GPwSI service but none of them had been properly evaluated yet: 'My personal experience is it's been really good for patients.'

By Emma Wilkinson

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