A recent report from the think-tank, Reform, has concluded that one in three visits to a GP practice could be dealt with by the practice nurse rather than the GP. The estimated saving of this, which would also allow more patients to be seen rather than relying on accident and emergency departments, is £700 million per year.
Statistics reveal that GPs deal with two-thirds of the 372 million appointments every year in England but that letting nurses deal with more medical problems could free up GPs, reducing the strain on an already over-worked sector of the NHS.
Unfortunately, the Royal College of GPs has confirmed that the shortage of nurses means that freeing up GP time in this way simply couldn’t happen. The recruitment drive necessary for additional practice nurses in an NHS which is already trying to save money and work effectively on fewer resources seems unlikely.
Other suggestions to reduce the strain on GPs include the use of online booking for appointments and more telephone consultations, however, research in the Lancet medical journal found that GP workloads have increased by 16 per cent in the seven years up to 2014. With increased pressure from the Government to provide appointments during weekends and evenings, and a recruitment shortage of both GPs and practice nurses, the demands on our surgeries show no sign of reducing.