Nurses will work to reduce demand for GP appointments in south west England

Nurses and other healthcare professionals will work to cut GP appointments in the West Country by a quarter.
nurse supports patient with asthma

Nurses and other healthcare professionals will work to reduce demand for GP appointments by a quarter, under plans in south west England.

Nurses’ prevention and self-care work will aim to ease pressure on GPs  Photo: iStock

Managers have drawn up a regional plan for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire that aims to reduce GP appointments by 27% by 2020. 

The intention is to cut demand for GP appointments by investing in prevention, self-care, and integration of community and primary care. It is hoped this will improve access to other healthcare professionals, such as nurses, pharmacists, and therapists, so that people will see their GPs less often.

Integrated approach

Similar so-called sustainability and transformation plans will reconfigure services over 44 areas of England. They will require hospitals, community providers and social care to work together in a more integrated way, and to save money.

RCN professional lead for public health Helen Donovan said: ‘It is not surprising sustainability and transformation plans are recognising the value of the wider multidisciplinary team.’

However, she warned that teams should be ‘equipped and prepared’ to meet the needs of patients in primary care.

‘Many nurses are already leading the way by running clinics for long-term conditions, such as diabetes and asthma, or delivering travel and vaccination services,’ she said.

‘But it is difficult to see how nurses can be expected to relieve the burden on GPs when the nursing workforce is struggling with 24,000 vacancies across the country.’

Workforce investment

Recognition of the need for a sustainable workforce in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire had led to the development of other projects including apprenticeships, shared training for mental health and community staff and recruitment collaborations. There are plans to share staff, expertise, facilities and equipment in an area that has 99 GP practices.

Meanwhile, in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, a scheme has been launched in which a multidisciplinary team meets once a week to discuss how to manage older patients.

Team members, including a healthcare assistant, physiotherapist, occupational therapist and two mental health nurses, share their knowledge and experience.

The Wakefield Vanguard Care Homes scheme has been running for nine months and, it is claimed, has reduced emergency department attendance by 12%.

The scheme is a potential model for other providers. In several regions, the aim is to close or downgrade some hospitals; in others, emergency or maternity departments may close, or services merge.


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