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15-minute appointments are the ‘future of general practice’, says RCGP

by Anviksha Patel
22 May 2019

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The RCGP has called for manageable GP workload and 15-minute consultations in general practice by 2030 in its new ‘Fit for the future’ report.
The report has set out the college’s vision for general practice in 11 years’ time, with the hope of making the profession ‘fit for the future’.
A previous blueprint published by RCGP in 2015, which called for an increase in investment in primary care, ‘helped influence’ the GP Forward View in 2016, according to the college.
Our sister publication Pulse, where this article was first published, reported that NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said he would increase primary care funds due to the ‘compelling case’ made by the RCGP in its 2015 document.
The RCGP said the new vision for 2030 was ‘ambitious’ but ‘not a pipe dream’.
The college said the goals set out in the plan are dependent on general practice (including in the devolved nations) receiving at least 11% of the NHS budget, increasing GP workforce by thousands and expanding GP specialty training to four years.
The RCGP consulted more than 3,000 GPs, health professionals and patients, as well as research commissioned by the King’s Fund.
It said: ‘By 2030, general practice will be a revitalised and growing profession. With the right staffing levels, GP workload will be manageable and job satisfaction rates will have increased.
‘The status of the profession, and the trust with which it is viewed by the public, will be at an all-time high.’
The report also said face-to-face GP appointments would last for at least 15 minutes by 2030, with more delivered remotely through digital and video channels.
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said the current standard 10-minute consultation was ‘unfit for purpose’.
She added: ‘It is abundantly clear that the standard 10-minute appointment is unfit for purpose.
‘It’s increasingly rare for a patient to present with a just single health condition, and we cannot deal with this adequately in 10 minutes.’
Professor Stokes-Lampard added: ‘GPs want to deliver truly holistic care to our patients, considering all the physical, psychological and social factors potentially impacting on their health.
‘But this depends on us having more time to spend with patients, and the resources and people to allow us to do this.’
The college also estimates that continuity of care will be achieved by ‘micro teams’, where patients can be treated by members of a multidisciplinary team delivering clinical and non-clinical services.
According to the report, the teams will ‘work together to provide enhanced care to patients with the most complex needs’ and will include roles like physiotherapists, dietitians, and health coaches.
Furthermore, the report predicts clusters of GP practices will act as wellbeing hubs offering a wide range of services.
As a result, it anticipates that the ‘traditional boundaries between primary and secondary care will have become much more blurred’.
Additionally, the use of technology will be more prolific, according to the report’s predictions.
For example, it is estimated that AI will be used more to ‘improve triage systems that assess the severity of a patient’s health needs’.
Professor Stokes-Lampard continued: ‘Much of what we envision for the future of our profession we are already embarking upon in some form or another – but we need to make sure that whatever we do is safe, evidence-based and ultimately works to make general practice and the wider NHS more sustainable. In many cases, we’re simply not there, yet.
‘Ours is an ambitious vision but it is not a pipe dream. Realising it will depend on having a sufficiently resourced service to keep people well and provide them with the care they need around the clock, and we have identified several key enablers to deliver this.
‘With these building blocks in place we can not only deliver world-class, patient-centred primary care, we can ensure that being a GP is the best job in the world.’
An NHS spokesperson said: ‘The long-term plan means an extra £4.5bn is being invested in primary and community care, alongside the recruitment of 20,000 physios, therapists and other health experts to offer patient more access to specialist care in GP teams, building on success in the last year alone which has seen GPs across the country free up an extra half a million hours of time for patients.’
NHS England recently announced it was expanding the ‘Time for Care’ programme after reporting it saved up to £40m in GP appointment time.
Yet a study in 2017 concluded that GP consultations will not reach 15 minutes until 2086.
In May, a report commissioned by health secretary, Matt Hancock found that 31% of GP time could potentially be freed up by automation due to improved productivity.  
This story was first published by our sister publication Pulse.