Citizens Advice have published their report ‘A very general practice’, which looks into how much time GPs spend on patient issues that are not health-related.
The report states that GPs spend almost a fifth of their consultation time dealing with non-health issues, such as personal relationship problems, housing and unemployment.
Citizens Advice says these issues can sometimes be linked to health conditions, but argues that in most cases GPs are not best placed to provide this kind of social support.
In response to the report Anna Bradley, our chair, said:
“From consulting a GP on relationship problems to visiting a doctor for toothache instead of a dentist, many people feel confused about precisely what they should see their GP for. Local Healthwatch research into primary care has shown that this is largely down to a lack of clear information and signposting for people about where they should go for non-medical support.
“It is understandable that when patients are facing a crisis they will turn to a trusted GP for support, but it puts unnecessary pressure on doctor’s surgeries, takes up sought-after appointment slots and forces GPs to give advice in areas where they are not experts.
“Healthwatch Kent recently highlighted a local scheme specifically designed to link primary care with community services, which has been proven to both improve people’s general wellbeing and reduce the number of unnecessary visits to the doctor.
“The rest of the sector can learn from this example, and others like it, to ensure they are offering patients the clear information and educating them about the alternatives out there.
“At Healthwatch we are continuing to conduct research around what patients really want from primary care. When delivering improvements to services, the system needs to take into consideration the requirements of real patients to ensure that primary care services and other community services work together to meet their needs holistically.”