Almost £400million a year spent on GPs doing non-medical work
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GPs spend almost a fifth (19%) of their consultation time dealing with non-health issues, according to a report by Citizens Advice.
The charity has estimated that in England a total of £394million is spent each year on doctors dealing with non-medical matters.
Non-health concerns raised most with GPs focused on personal relationship problems, housing and unemployment or work-related issues – according to the study in which 824 doctors in England were surveyed.
Almost half (46%) of respondents said this increased costs to their practice and the NHS and 80% said this meant they have less time to concentrate on other patients’ medical issues.
Nicky Willshere, manager of Ipswich & District Citizens Advice, said: “GPs are vital to communities but need to be free to do their jobs. It is crucial people can access help for social issues, but GPs do not always have to be the first port of call for this.
“Making more of the support services that are already available across the country could free up GPs, improve health access and help meet the efficiency savings the NHS has been tasked with finding.”
The report comes just months after the last parliament’s public accounts committee released a report stating almost one million patients a year in England are seeking care at A&E because they are unable to get a GP appointment.
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With 84% of GPs telling the Citizens Advice study that they refer patients with non-health demands to advice agencies in the community, the charity is arguing that opportunities are being missed to help people earlier and to free up GPs’ time.
The report also found that 64% of respondents believe non-health queries from patients increase the stress of their job, and 72% of GPs said the proportion of time they have spent on non-health issues increased over the past year. The research was conducted by ComRes on behalf of Citizens Advice in February through an online omnibus survey of GPs in the UK, which is carried out on a monthly basis.