RCGP urges greater continuity
The RCGP is urging policy makers to keep general practice familiar and local, in order to improve continuity of care and help tackle health inequalities.
In a policy paper commissioned by the College, Dr Alison Hill, a GP and Medical Director of NHS Westminster, and Dr George Freeman, Emeritus Professor of General Practice at Imperial College London, highlight evidence showing that good continuity of care improves recognition of symptoms and adherence to treatment, and saves money by reducing referrals, investigations and admissions.
But an increasingly mobile population and greater specialisation in the medical profession are making it harder for people to see the same doctors throughout the care pathway. Drs Hill and Freeman also point out that certain policy developments, such as the separation of out-of-hours care from practices and an emphasis on protocol-guided care under the Quality and Outcomes Framework, have undermined continuity of care.
Interestingly, despite concerns over access, Dr Hill and Dr Freeman point out that patients are prepared to wait longer to see their preferred GP.
They recommend that policy makers keep general practice local and safeguard GP time with patients, and that GPs should lead out-of-hours commissioning. And they stress that GPs should give patients clear information on getting an appointment with their chosen doctor and when it is important for them to do so.
RCGP Chair Dr Clare Gerada commented: "The days of the 'traditional family doctor' may be over, thanks to societal and professional developments - including an increasingly mobile population - but the need for relationship and management continuity is more important than ever.
"Clinicians face the dual challenge of an increasingly ageing population presenting multiple comorbidities. Management of these often chronic conditions depends on joined-up care that general practice, with support from our specialist colleagues, is uniquely place to provide."
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By Caroline Price