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Face-to-face consultations by GPs ‘no longer sustainable’

General practice is ‘no longer sustainable' in its current form, with a squeezed workforce, increasingly complex demands and a shifting financial landscape requiring GPs to radically alter way they work, a new report has claimed.

An analysis by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions says general practice will be increasingly stretched by an ageing workforce, a shortage of junior doctors being trained to replace them, rising life expectancy and increasingly complex long-term conditions.

It says this will be compounded by thousands of GPs retiring in the next five years against the backdrop of a surge in demand for increasingly complex care, and unprecedented financial and healthcare reform'.

The report, ‘Primary Care: Today and Tomorrow', says general practice must work differently to cope effectively with the increasing demands, which it said are ‘especially pertinent as GPs take on the role of commissioners of local healthcare services'.

It cites recent figures from the NHS Information Centre showing that 22% of GPs are aged over 55, compared to 17% in 2000, as evidence of ‘a significant primary care supply challenge'.  

It says the same figures demonstrate that new entrants and returners to work have fallen, which will ‘compound the strains' on the GP workforce.

If the pattern of GP consultations remains unchanged, the report forecasts there could be a total of 433 million practice consultations annually by 2035, including180 million for people aged 65 and over, nearly double the current figure.

Karen Taylor, research director of Deloitte UK Centre for Health Solutions, said: ‘Whilst important, the traditional ways of working, which rely on face-to-face consultations between the patient and the GP, and increasingly the practice nurse, are no longer sustainable.' 

‘Additionally, rising life expectancy is bringing about increasingly complex long-term health issues requiring frequent GP visits. GPs need to adopt new models of care, using new technology and other practice staff more effectively, working closely with patients to provide more care in the community, with an emphasis on shared decision making and self-management. ‘

‘GPs will still need to act as gatekeepers, but also increasingly as care navigators.'

Read the full report here.