NHS England moves to ease demand with new GP assistants

  • Date: 10 October 2022

NHS England is recruiting over a thousand GP assistants from this month to offer admin support in hard-pressed practices.

The GP assistants will be trained to do blood pressure checks, heart rate and blood tests as well as arranging appointments, referrals and follow-up care for patients.

Local primary care networks (PCNs) will also recruit up to 1,250 digital and transformation leads across the country to help make sure practices are using the latest technology to offer more telephone lines, monitor their call response times or offer support with the NHS app.

The app will be available from November and will allow patients in England to review current test results amongst other records.

NHS England acknowledges that GPs are experiencing record demand, with the latest figures up to July showing around 11 million more routine appointments carried out in 2022 compared to the same period last year.

NHS England says it is working to transform the general practice workforce to meet this rising demand and cites studies demonstrating that more than a quarter of appointments could be carried out by non-GP professionals, replaced by self-care or not offered at all.

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “The Royal College of GPs has previously argued that supporting the recruitment of GP assistants could be a practical and important step forward in helping to ease the workload pressures on GPs, freeing up more time for those patients with more complex health issues who are most in need of a GP’s medical expertise.

“As their title suggests, these roles can assist GPs in delivering high quality care to patients - they are not a substitute for GPs or other clinical staff, and they must not be expected to work beyond their levels of competence. Nor must they be seen as a solution to the chronic shortage of GPs, especially when GPs will be required to oversee their work and are ultimately responsible.

“The reality is that we don’t currently have the GP workforce numbers to deliver the type of personalised care we want to deliver to patients. Indeed, while the volume, complexity and intensity of GP workload is ever-growing, the number of whole-time equivalent fully qualified GPs has fallen by 1,857 FTE from September 2015 to July 2022.”

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