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CAB - Almost £400million a year spent on GPs doing non-health work

Charity says more needs to be done to relieve pressure on GPs

GPs spend almost a fifth (19 per cent) of their consultation time dealing with non-health issues, according toanew report out today (Tuesday 19 May 19, 2015).

Citizens Advice has estimated that £394million is spent annually on doctors consulting on non-medical matters in England.

Non-health concerns raised most with GPs focussed on personal relationship problems, housing and unemployment or work related issues – according to the study A very general practice.

Eighty per cent of GPs in England told the report this means they have less time to concentrate on other patients’ medical issues and almost half (46 per cent) said it increased costs to their practice and the NHS.

Citizens Advice says these issues can sometimes be linked to health conditions, but argues that in many cases GPs are not best placed to provide this kind of social support.

The report comes just months after the last Parliament’s public accounts committee released a report stating almost one million patients a year in England are seeking care at A&E because they are unable to get a GP appointment.

With 84 per cent of GPs telling the Citizens Advice study that they refer patients with non-health demands to advice agencies in the community, the report says opportunities are being missed to help people earlier and to free up GPs’ time.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“GPs are vital to communities but need to be free to do their jobs.  

“It is crucial people can access help for social issues, but GPs do not always have to be the first port of call for this.

"Making more of the support services that are already available across the country could free up GPs, improve health access and help meet the efficiency savings the NHS has been tasked with finding.”

The report surveyed more than 800 doctors in England. The findings include:

  • On average, GPs estimate that 19 per cent of their consultation time is taken up with non-health matters.
  • 64 per cent of respondents said non-health queries from patients increase the stress of their job.
  • 72 per cent of GPs said the proportion of time they have spent on non-health issues increased over the past year.

Notes to editors

  1. Citizens Advice commissioned ComRes to conduct a quantitative survey of GPs. The research was conducted in February 2015 through an online omnibus survey of GPs in the UK, which is carried out on a monthly basis. We asked GPs to estimate the amount of time they spend in consultations with patients discussing non-health matters, what these issues are, what change in demand levels the last year, and how this impacts on their work. ComRes interviewed 1,002 GPs in the UK, including 824 in England, online between the 18 and 25 February 2015. Data were weighted to be representative of all GPs in the UK by former SHA region.
  2. Cost methodology: The cost of the time GPs spend on discussing non-health demand with patients was calculated by Citizens Advice primarily using figures collated and published by the Personal Social Services Research Unit, covering GP pay, total working hours and working hours spent on direct patient care. A full breakdown is available in the report.
  3. Definition ‘non-health’: The report uses the 'non-health’ term to describe queries which are not principally or specifically about a health problem.
  4. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  5. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  6. To find your local bureau in England and Wales and to get advice online go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk
  7. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
  8. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014 service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
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