A report by Doctorlink, a new digital healthcare company focused on improving the NHS primary healthcare experience, has found that progress to reduce the pressures on NHS GP surgeries remains limited and is potentially getting worse. It shows GPs are increasingly open to deploying digital innovations to help rescue primary care at surgery level, rather than waiting for wholesale solutions.
The findings, from a study of 100 NHS GPs, revealed GPs are frustrated and fearful, with 97% admitting the current surgery model must adapt to survive, and 82% saying that current pressure from patient demand is unsustainable.
Recruitment and retention concerns are rife; 63% of GPs believe their counterparts are retiring early, while 70% believe younger doctors are avoiding the profession.
63% found it hard to recruit support staff from nurses through to administrators – this is a recipe for further NHS GP surgery closures, far beyond the figure cited by NHS England in 2016.
The impact on patients is also concerning; 73% of NHS GPs consider the quality of patient care is being negatively affected by current pressures, while 48% of respondents think that between 20% and 40% of their appointments are unnecessary.
While nine out of ten (88%) of GPs agree technology is vital to ‘future-proof’ their surgeries, in terms of finding practical solutions, at a universal, strategic level, 91% of respondents say improving efficiencies by facilitating better connectivity between primary care services will be the most effective.
However, there is recognition that such measures take time and the report reveals an eagerness amongst GPs to tackle pressures at the grassroots rather than waiting for support to be delivered.
The majority of GPs believe adapting how patient care is managed will be most effective in improving quality of service in surgeries.
In support of this, when asked “what in reality will protect future sustainability of NHS GP surgeries”, the adoption of med tech and apps to reduce the burden on GP staff was thought to be most likely (53%) and 96% of respondents say they would be interested in trying digital triage technology.
Doctorlink has been developed in response to this situation. It is an online and advice triage tool that has been specifically designed by medical and technology experts for the NHS and from September will be available for all NHS surgeries across the UK. Doctorlink reduces the burden of unnecessary appointments with its clinically approved auditable algorithms, which integrate seamlessly with NHS systems.
The Doctorlink tool aims to change patient behaviour by enabling convenient access to appropriate support, whether that’s referral to a specialist, advice from a pharmacist, a repeat prescription or an appointment with their GP.
The platform hopes to reduce surgery appointments by approximately 20%, helping GPs to operate more efficiently and ensuring they can allocate their time to patients who truly need clinical support. So far, Doctorlink has been made available to 200,000 NHS patients across 14 surgeries.
Andrew Gardner, Founder and CEO of Doctorlink commented “At a time when GP surgeries are being asked to do more with less, we see an increasing appetite from doctors to trial digital innovation within their surgeries to improve efficiencies.”
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“Doctorlink is the only digital triage tool specifically designed to support NHS GPs with the challenges they face as they juggle limited time and ballooning patient demand. It will unlock the latent capacity that’s consumed by the staggering number of unnecessary patient appointments taking place every day. Doctorlink gives GPs more time – to provide the quality of service and care they would like to, and to prioritise those patients who need urgent medical support.”