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Background: Obtaining appointments at a general practice was critical for reducing avoidable hospital admissions, and ultimately saving healthcare costs. In the United Kingdom (UK), problematic access of appointments at individual general practices persisted resulting from increasing health complexities in primary care, which were exacerbated by shortages of medical doctors as general practitioners (GP). The UK government pursued the employing of care-coordinators at primary care networks to allocate care to non-GP health professionals as a solution, but patient demand for GP appointments at individual practices continued to surge.
Aims: This paper reports on an investigation of the ideal way to address patient demand on GP appointments at individual practices. It aimed to report on the effects of two newly implemented joint consultations, one comprising a nursing team and another, a multi-disciplinary team comprising medical doctors and nursing personnel.
Methods: Three reviews were conducted in a 3500 patient-list-sized GP practice located in North-Eastern part of England. The aim was to analyse retrospective data of the telephony system to explore the effect of joint consultations on demand of GP appointments that were made through the telephony system. The number and lengths of incoming telephone calls to secure GP or nursing appointments at the practice were analysed descriptively. The periods of analysis were from January to August in the years 2021, 2022 and 2023.
Results: Since implementation of the two joint consultations, there was a 32% reduction in telephone calls for GP appointments. There was also a shortening of the duration of these telephone calls and decreasing trends of missed calls. The increased lengths of calls towards the tail end of the 3rd review period in 2023 demonstrated increased patient awareness and cooperation for in-depth discussions about their symptoms prior to securing appointments.
Conclusions: The joint consultations had significantly decreased patient demands for GP appointments via telephone. In addition, the joint consultations had not only allowed holistic care needs to be addressed, but also, they had permitted appropriate care to be delivered in a timely fashion. It is therefore important to ensure appropriate healthcare funding to support the implementation of joint consultations at individual GP practices.
Key learning points
- GP appointment demands can be reduced through joint consultations which had every potential in offering a holistic care approach in a timely fashion.
- Healthcare funding allocated to expanding the work force at primary care networks should be diverted to individual GP practices for staff retention in establishing joint consultations.
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