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Patients with multimorbidity take one in two GP appointments

by Valeria Fiore
14 March 2018

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Patients with multimorbidity take up more than half of GP appointments, a study has found.

It is becoming more common for GPs to visit patients living with multimorbidities, which make more than half of GP consultations, a study has found.

The study, published yesterday (13 March) in the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP), found that patients with multimorbidity, defined as the ‘coexistence of two or more long-term medical conditions or diseases’, accounted for 53% of GP consultations.

GP practices should therefore implement new systems to free up GPs time, to allow them to spend more time with patients living with complex conditions, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) warned yesterday in a response to the study.

The research examined a sample of 403 985 adult patients who were registered with a GP in England on 1 January 2012 and had acceptable patient and up-to-standard practice data in April 2016, according to the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD), which gathers ‘anonymised clinical information extracted from consenting general practice electronic health reports’.

Researchers from the Universities of Cambridge, Bristol, and Utah looked at data retrospectively and found that the ‘majority of GP consultations, prescriptions, and hospital admissions were associated with patients with multimorbidity’ during the four-year period.

The results showed the ‘disproportionately large demand that patients with multimorbidity place on the UK’s overburdened healthcare system’, the researchers said.

Practices should therefore consider alternative ways to provide care to their patients, which will allow freeing up GPs’ time, said the RCGP.

RCGP chair professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘These findings suggest that for general practice to cope with the changing needs of our population, we need to consider alternative ways of delivering care to ensure all patients receive the most appropriate care for them.

‘This should involve implementing systems to free up GPs’ time so that they can spend longer with patients living with multiple, complex conditions, who really need their medical skills and expertise.’

Prof Stokes-Lampard said that GPs need to spend more time with patients presenting more complex needs, but she said that ‘offering longer appointments means offering fewer appointments and our patients are already waiting too long to secure time with their GP’.

Practice managers can look into several strategies that will help them to free up GPs’ time, such as having a surgery-based pharmacist or by making better use of their practice nurses