28 April 2020
A new project will collect intelligence about the demands on GP practices, the challenges, and the creative solutions practices have developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This information will then be used to support GP practices more effectively.
Rapid COVID-19 intelligence to improve primary care response (RAPCI) is a collaboration between the University of Bristol, NIHR ARC West, Bristol North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (BNSSG CCG) and One Care, and funded by the NIHR School for Primary Care Research and NIHR ARC West.
The pandemic has required rapid change in the way GP practices deliver consultations to meet the sudden increase in demand and ensure social distancing. In March 2020, most UK GP practices stopped making face-to-face appointments in advance. Instead, patients either phone their practice, complete an online written consultation or phone NHS 111 and, because of the risk of infection, most patients are offered telephone or video consultations, instead of face-to-face.
The research team will collect information on 111 calls and GP appointments for the one million patients in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. They will examine how many calls were received from particular types of patients (for example by age, or with certain long-term conditions) and the type of call, in order to highlight areas of need. They will also conduct brief regular interviews with staff at selected GP practices to understand the challenges, the innovations practices have put in place and what can be done to support practices further to meet demand during the pandemic.
“The current situation is an opportunity to rapidly research how GP practices respond to the pandemic in the way they manage demand and implement alternatives to face-to-face consultations. This is of interest regionally, nationally and internationally and we hope this will enable innovation to be shared among general practice, and with other health systems to improve their response to the pandemic.”
Dr Jeremy Horwood, from the Centre for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol and NIHR ARC West, who is also co-leading the study, said:
“Responding to the new norm of social distancing, GP practices have had to rapidly adopt new ways of delivering care remotely. This is a huge change, with primary care being transformed in a matter of weeks. Most appointments are now happening over the phone or online, when previously eight out of 10 would have been face-to-face. It is vital we examine how GP practices are dealing with these changes and what can be done to support them in safely delivering care to patients during the current crisis.”