In the news – Group Consultations coming soon to a GP near you?

Summary:  The prospect of ‘Group GP Consultations’ potentially took a step closer to becoming a part of standard primary care after a leading GP told the annual Royal College of GPs annual conference that the audience should ‘take a leap of faith’.

What’s being proposed?

Group consultations are now widely expected to be rolled out nationally at the end of the year as part of the 10 year plan.

Under group consultations a number of patients (potentially around 10-15) are seen as a group facilitated by a trained facilitator. The sessions could last around 1-2hrs and the GP may only be present for around 30-45 minutes.

At the annual RCGP conference, Dr Emily Symington (NHS Croydon CCG Together for Health and Care board chair and local GP)  suggested that GPs were ‘kidding themselves’ if they thought that long-term conditions could be managed effectively under a normal 10 minute consultation. Other speakers also supported this move.

What do leading industry figures think?

NESTA have run the numbers where this is happening and found that within group consultations around 15 patients could be seen in the time it would normally take to see 9 – a 40% increase.

Professor Helen Stokes -Lampard, chair of the RCGPs said  “We are already aware of practices that are offering ‘shared’ appointments for patients with similar conditions and the feedback has been very positive…Some patients have even said they have benefited from the support they receive from their fellow patients, in addition to the care they receive from their GP.”

The Patients Association’s chief executive Rachel Power said: “It could also be reassuring to patients to see others share their concerns and challenges, and can provide the benefit of peer support…but patients must be given the choice as to whether to participate, or to continue with more traditional GP services.”

However, a Pulse article states why this may be difficult to introduce in practice: “It will generate appointments for lonely and nosy people and increase pressure on the clinician as a big queue is waiting. It is a backward step for a country moving to a system similar to China’s old system when it was poor.”

Where else has this approach been used in the healthcare sector?

Group sessions have already been run successfully with other clinicians including mental health nurses, pharmacists, social workers and psychologists as for a range of long term conditions such as CVD, Kidney, addictions/MH, ED, and cancer.

Does this have the potential to offer the same leaps forward in terms of peer support and self-care as these areas and what lessons can we learn?

Would this be a positive or a retrograde step if done properly and carefully for the right patients?

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