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At the heart of general practice since 1960

GP practices set for admin assistants as education bosses approve pilots

Health Education England is funding the RCGP to develop a strategy and pilots for general practice ‘medical assistants’, an administrative role championed by the college to reduce GP workload by an estimated 11%.

Giving its response to a landmark review of GP recruitment at a board meeting today, HEE suggested that current healthcare assistants could undertake additional training to perform ‘patient sensitive’ administrative tasks.

Pulse revealed in July that the Primary Care Workforce Commission’s The future of primary care: creating teams for tomorrow, led by GP academic Professor Martin Roland, championed the use of alternative health professionals to relieve the 11% of GP time spent on administrative tasks.

And the college has been an early proponent of the ‘medical assistants’ model, with chair Dr Maureen Baker petitioning the Government last year to ‘urgently’ implement the new role as short-term support while practices struggle with an ongoing workforce crisis.

The draft response, approved at the meeting on Wednesday subject to minor modifications, states: ‘We will be piloting new roles, such as medical assistants, in collaboration with RCGP and other partners in order to determine whether such roles might reduce the administrative burden placed upon GPs and nurses.’

Speaking at the meeting, HEE medical director Professor Wendy Reid added: ‘There are some American models, and there are some models here where healthcare assistants have taken on quite significant, patient sensitive administration.

‘There’s a big piece of work to be done there, and we’ve started that. We’ve funded someone to work with us at the RCGP, because we fundamentally think this is about GPs defining what is needed.’

She added that this could involve healthcare assistants working towards care certificates to enable them to take on greater responsibilities.

Prof Reid also highlighted other areas where HEE is already acting on the report’s recommendations:

  • HEE agrees that greater use of physician associates (PAs), healthcare assistants, and paramedics in primary care can increase GP time with complex patients, and have enlisted St George’s Medical School principal Professor Peter Kopelman to review how PA training can be made primary care specific.
  • It is working with NHS England on how PAs would be employed, as HEE trains them to meet the 1,000 PAs by 2020 target set out in the ‘new deal ‘ for general practice.
  • The draft HEE response adds it are also evaluating ‘the potential for community paramedics to substitute for GPs in the assessment of urgent home visits and possibly repeat assessments of such patients that might also reduce admissions where the GP does not have capacity to monitor patients.’

In its response HEE agrees with the ‘principle of needing to increase recruitment and retention amongst general practitioners’ and notes it is reviewing GP training.

The RCGP were approached for comment but had not responded at time of publication.

Readers' comments (10)

  • WTF? We have 4 full time staff doing admin. What is new here?

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  • we don't need more assistants to do unfunded crap work that doesn't need doing. we just need to stop doing unfunded work with no basis.

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  • Is it the new term for a secretary??

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  • Haha my thoughts exactly!

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  • Vinci Ho

    I did have a fantasy to use a voice activated texting technology on the computer as I am slow in typewriting (quite frankly , hate going back to the computer during my consultation ). Hence , I could concentrate on taking history and examination . Examine the patient and talk through the findings while the computer records everything simultaneously. Same thing should happen with prescriptions, ordering investigations and even ticking boxes. A human PA to do that???

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  • Another sticking plaster.
    Back us up to say NO to silly demand and we will sort it.

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  • Oh for goodness sake, As an ANP/prescriber, I left primary care last year after a decade, carrying huge work load and receiving little reward/acknowledgement and respect for work & considerably less benefits and holiday than a partner. Everything in Gp land has been 'partner-based'.

    The RCP have been talking about unregulated PA's and now this rubbish -Primary care has a plethora of talent already, just failing to properly acknowledge and promote whats there. You already have: Nurse practitioners
    /PN's/HCA's/pharmacists/Community Matrons/Medical secretaries/Admin - what more do you want? Whilst the current system remains things will not improve in the current financial climate - its an MDT approach that includes other people rather than just GPs and practice managers running practices that's needed in primary care.

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  • Vinci - voice technology is getting better. What the aim appears to be is to have doctors JUST doctoring, no BS box ticking etc. Basically a clinical PA. We had a large clerical team doing most of that in my last practice, but in my small rural practice, this is less easy to do. Being a bit of a geek, if we could get voice dictation slick and rapid, we wouldn't need a lot of this.

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  • This truly highlights the lack of understanding the Royal College has of real life general practice.

    They do not understand we already have secretaries for this.

    What we need is help to stop patients coming for everything - to stop the mantra to go and see your GP for a letter of your boiler is not working.

    Help to stop inappropriate work from hospitals allowing them to make inter- consultant referrals, for them to follow their own blood tests and chase patients themselves.

    Help to cut down the unnecessary admin with all the LESs and DESs and whatever schemes the CCGs come up with.

    But no we need a pilot to do something that we have anyway

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  • I work as a locum and one practice has every phone call triaged by a doctor. They have nurse practitioners and paramedics working there. I have noticed a few mistakes and things missed from their consultations. All the quicker and easier consultations are delegated to them, meaning that it is rare to have any consultations left for the gps which take less than 10 mins. Therefore each consultation is challenging and you end up running up to an hour late. Ok so extra professionals reduces consultations for GPs but I think it leaves you more worn out and stressed at the end of a busy day.

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