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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.’