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Primary care workload has increased following NHS reforms, survey finds

Primary care workload has increased following NHS reforms, survey finds
By Beth Gault
2 July 2024

Exclusive: Workload within primary care has increased following reforms to the NHS over the past five years, a survey has found.

The State of Primary Care survey took place across Healthcare Leader and its sister titles and was answered by 1,795 healthcare professionals across the NHS, 1,294 of which worked in primary care, including GPs, clinical directors, pharmacists and nurses.

It found that 69% of staff across the professions said the move to integrated care systems (ICSs) and primary care networks (PCNs) over the past five years had increased their workload, while only 8% said they disagreed.

Around 17% of respondents said the reforms had improved collaboration between primary and secondary care, while 39% said it had improved collaboration between GP practices.

Over 20% (21%) of respondents said the move had increased the influence of primary care on commissioning decisions, however only 29% said it had improved care for patients.

Dr Paul Evans, a GP in Gateshead, commented in the report that after five years, PCNs should have been able to demonstrate that the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) had reduced GP workload.

He said: ‘‘We were told that the job would become more manageable, and this has not been true.’

Digital and business manager at Whitfield PCN, Seema Gater, also commented that alleviating workload had not been ‘universally achieved’.

She added in the report that getting the engagement and recognition from their ICB could feel like searching for a golden ticket.

However, PCN clinical directors had more positive views on this, with 46% saying their ICB was highly engaged with primary care.

Over two thirds (69%) of clinical directors also thought their network had been successful in improving joint working and 63% said this of improving care for patients.

Healthcare Leader editor, Victoria Vaughan, said: ‘While this survey shows positive views of the impact of PCNs on both access and care for patients from those leading and working in PCNs it highlights that the majority of GPs do not feel this way. PCNs can only succeed if they are supported by the practices they are working with and are perceived to have a benefit to those practices.

‘While those working in ARRS roles report a largely positive experience there are fundamental issues around the supervision of these roles and the wider impact on other professions.

‘The next government would be wise to navigate the future role of PCNs and the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) in collaboration with GPs as a whole if the plan for better patients access and population-based neighbourhood care is to progress.’

The State of Primary Care survey took place between April 29 and May 20 2024 across Healthcare Leader and our sister titles, Pulse PCN, Pulse, Nursing in Practice, The Pharmacist, Management in Practice and Hospital Pharmacy Europe.

There were 1,795 responses from health professionals. The majority – 72% or 1,294 – of respondents work in primary care in England. There were answers from across England with all 42 ICBs represented.

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