A new study has shown that extending GP appointments to 30 minutes was more cost effective than many prescription drugs. For patients with complex health needs, the extra time and support meant their health did not decline. This was compared to those in the study who got treatment as usual – ten minute appointments – and did get worse.
The research aimed to help those in the most deprived areas. Such patients are often more ill but actually receive less care than those in better-off areas – partly because GPs are busier.
It wasn’t just extending the GP appointment time that was included in the measures, called CARE Plus. GPs and nurses in the practices involved received training and support, plus the patients got more ‘self-management’ support.
Professor Graham Watt, a leader of the study from Glasgow University, said:
To everyone’s surprise and delight it proved to be cost effective. If this was a drug or a bit of equipment it would just sale in – there would be no argument about whether the NHS should be doing it.
The CARE Plus package cost £929 more per patient than the standard GP service, including staff training and locum cover. That’s a lot cheaper than a stay in hospital. It also reduced the need for prescription drugs. And it was well below the level set by NICE at which a treatment is considered cost-effective enough for implementation.
Professor Watt added:
CARE Plus showed a difference, but not so much because the patients who got the extra time got better. It was because the patients who did not get it, got worse. It shows that if primary (GP) care isn’t well resourced and up to speed then things are just going to fall apart and patients will turn up in accident and emergency faster than they need to.
As well as being better for patients, more time at appointments should be better for doctors too. In deprived areas, GPs feel more stressed and are more likely to suffer burn out. They have less time for appointments and yet the issues their population are more complex. Providing 30 minute appointments helps GPs get to the bottom of complex health issues and work to find a way forwards. In doing so they are likely to feel more satisfied that they are able to help their patients most in need.
The link between poverty and ill health is a complex one. The Royal College of Nursing recently highlighted concerns over the lack of progress in levelling out health inequalities. Malnutrition, food poverty, inadequate and unsafe housing, drugs and social isolation are all issues that nurses regularly deal with.
Carol Evans, from the RCN, said:
Increased health inequalities are worrying for nurses who deal with the consequences of factors such as poor housing and poverty.
Our major worry is that efforts to tackle these issues and help people live healthier lives are in danger of going backwards because of aggressive public health funding cuts.
The researchers of the GP study now plan to extend it to more people throughout country. CARE Plus is unlikely to be the solution to health inequalities on its own, but it clearly demonstrates the value of investing in and supporting front line staff – to improve quality of life for patients.
Featured image via Flickr
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?