Group consultations for up to 15 patients are to be rolled out nationally after positive feedback from pilot projects in practices in six areas of England.
Speaking at the RCGP annual meeting, Alison Manson, national training lead for group consultations, said they could ‘reduce demand and improve efficiency’.
Sessions lasting up to 2 hours, and led by practice nurses, healthcare assistants and admin staff, have been found to effective for patients with long term conditions such as diabetes and asthma, chronic back pain and obesity.
RCGP Chair, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, said: ‘We are aware of practices that are offering shared appointments for patients with similar conditions and the feedback has been very positive.
‘Some patients have even said they have benefited from the support they receive from their fellow patients, in addition to the care they receive from their GP.
‘However, this approach will not work for everyone and GPs will know what best suits their patients and practices – and there is no pressure on patients to participate if they would prefer to continue seeing their GP in a one-to-one consultation.’
Speaking to the BBC, Dr Frazer Birrell, who runs groups in the North East, said: ‘The big trouble is we don't have enough nurses, we don't have enough doctors and waiting times are worse than we want.
‘So this is one possible solution where if we see people together, we can offer them better care... and we can see the people with chronic conditions more regularly.’
Members of the RCN GPN Forum point out that it is not GPs who run the group sessions – but practice nurses. GPN Forum chair Marie Therese Massey said: ‘There has been no mention whatsoever of GPNs in organising and facilitating these in any of the reports I have seen. I feel our role in this innovation has been totally overlooked.’
The RCGP has produced a resource, Shared medical appointments in the UK, available at http://www.rcgp.org.uk/clinical-and-research/resources/bright-ideas/shared-medical-appointments-in-the-uk-dr-rob-lawson.aspx
And you can catch up with Practice Nurse’s article from April 2017, ‘Group consultations: better for patients, better for nurses?’