GP partners are positive about the potential of easing the pressures in general practice by incorporating a wide range of professions into the team, a new report has found.
The Primary Concerns 2018: The State of Primary Care report, released by Healthcare Leader publisher Cogora, revealed that nearly half, 46%, of GP partners currently employ a practice pharmacist and would continue to do so.
Over one third, 37%, said they would employ a practice pharmacist in the future, but are currently not.
Just 3.3% said they currently employ a practice pharmacist but would not continue to do so, while 8.4% said they do not currently employ a practice pharmacist and would not contemplate doing so in the future.
The report, published last week, revealed that overall, 84% of the more than 2,300 survey respondents are in favour of clinical pharmacists being an integral part of the general practice workforce.
Respondents included GP partners, salaried GPs, pharmacists, nurses and healthcare assistants across the UK.
Wider skill mix
In order to attempt to relieve the pressures within general practice, the Government is pursuing a course of encouraging a wider skill mix into the sector.
As part of the GP Forward View, NHS England in 2016 announced its intention to fund 5,000 practice staff into general practice, including social workers, nurses and 3,000 new practice-based mental health therapists.
Since the GP Forward View was published, the Government has invested more than £140m to bring around 2,000 pharmacists into general practice by 2020/21.
Practices across England are increasingly working with pharmacists, while there has to date been slightly less uptake when it comes to professions such as physician associates and mental health therapists within general practice.
This year’s survey, the sixth to date, shows that 32% of GP partners would employ a physician associate in their practice in the future, but do not currently do so.
Over a third, 35%, appeared unconvinced of the benefits of hiring a physician associate, saying that they neither employed one currently, nor would consider doing so further down the line.
A relatively limited 5% of GP partners said they already employ a physician associate, and would carry on doing so.
The report showed that the number of practices currently employing mental health therapists has remained constant at 10%, in comparison to last year’s findings. However, this has almost doubled since 2016, when just 5.5% of respondents had one in their team.
The figures also showed that 56% of GP partners would employ a mental health therapist in their practice but do not currently do so, while 17% would not add a mental health therapist to their team.
While only 11% currently employ a mental health therapist, only 0.4% of the GP partners who do said they wouldn’t continue doing so – indicating a positive experience.
According to research published by mental health charity Mind last year, two-thirds, 66% of GPs saw a rise in patients needing assistance with their mental health in the year ending June 2018.
GPs also reported that 40% of their consultations had come to involve mental health concerns.
The Primary Concerns 2018 report stated: ‘This increase in mental health-related workload could explain the fact that, overall, practices are more optimistic about the idea of having mental health therapists in the workforce.’
The survey also asked respondents for their views on employing a nursing associate in their practice, following the opening of the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s nursing associate register in January this year.
Less than a third, 30%, of GP partners said they would consider employing a nursing associate but had no plans to do so this year, while a third, 33%, said they did not know. Over a fifth, 22.6%, said they would not assemploy one.
National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) national primary care home clinical director Dr Nav Chana said: ‘Multi-disciplinary working has always been at the heart of NAPC’s primary care homes.
This is central to a proactive, integrated approach to population health management and leads to better patient outcomes.’
NHS England’s medical director for primary care Dr Nikita Kanani said: ‘These findings echo the real enthusiasm we’ve been hearing from local primary care teams and national leaders alike. The future will see networks of GPs supported by specialist healthcare workers such as pharmacists, therapists, nurses, paramedics and physician associates, and people are rightly positive about the benefits this will bring for patients and staff alike.’