Workload has increased enormously across the NHS since the onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. General Practice is one area feeling the pressure. It is estimated that 90% of patient interactions take place in General Practice (Oliver 2021) and research carried out by the King’s Fund concluded that GP workload has grown over the past five years, both in volume and complexity with a 15% overall increase in contacts: a 13% increase in face to face contacts and a 63% increase in telephone contacts.
So how can we help General Practice deal more efficiently and effectively with the demands that are placed on them?
GPs are often seen as the gatekeeper to the NHS and the one person for the public to go to for help, but in fact there are a lot of other services that people could access directly. The issue is that people don’t always know about them or, for example, don’t realise that a pharmacist could help. Increasing awareness of these other services and helping people to self-manage conditions may help reduce the need to talk to the GP.
In addition, General Practice has a high administrative workload which is also very important to looking after patients’ health. For example, when a patient is sent for a test, results need to be reviewed, processed, and a decision taken about whether further action is needed. Another example is the way patients’ letters from hospitals or other healthcare providers are handled. These types of largely administrative jobs take up valuable time and it seems to me that with the technology available today, we could potentially look at automating many of these tasks.
An automation process could follow clear rules and reduce the amount of time practice staff spend on this work. Anything that’s borderline or unusual can be taken to a GP for a decision. Recent research suggests automation could impact 44% of all administrative work in general practice, enhancing both the quality of care and work satisfaction.
Kent Surrey Sussex AHSN have therefore launched a national call out to industry to help GP workload, particularly on the administrative side. We would be delighted to hear from anyone who has a solution that’s ready to go, or a company or developer that understands the healthcare market and would like to work with us and primary care colleagues to co-design a solution. The healthcare market is a complex landscape and so we hope to work with those who understand some of the complexities such as information governance standards and IT systems interoperability.