The practice of general medicine with shared appointments

Group of people sitting around a table

Group of people sitting around a table


People in the group "formed a bond" about their shared experience

If you wait for an appointment with the GP, would you choose a group session with the doctor? It is an idea that some surgeries are investigating.

The demand for appointments increasingly exceeds availability. In recent years, the number of GP appointments has increased by 13%, but GP numbers have increased by less than 5%, which puts great pressure on surgeries.

In addition, many of us live longer and with multiple long-term conditions, which can make consultations extremely complex.

It could be said that the traditional 10-minute one-to-one appointment is no longer adequate for its purpose.

Without the promise of increased funding, or a substantially increased GP workforce, primary care teams must find innovative new ways to provide routine care in general practice that simultaneously save time and improve quality.

One such practice is the Parchmore Medical Center in Thornton Heath, Surrey.

Anthony is a patient there. He says: "I have passed that magical age of 50 and received a call from the GP. I have some weight problems and some blood pressure problems, so it's time to do something."

He had come for a date, but with a difference. Instead of the usual 10 minutes, he was going to have an hour and a half with his GP.

But I wouldn't be seeing the doctor alone; He would be sharing his appointment with six other patients.

& # 39; No one felt the need to restrain & # 39;

Everyone has weight problems and / or pre-diabetes. There were seven present at this particular consultation, but they can attend up to 15.

The session began with a medical assistant, the "facilitator," collecting patient measurements and compiling a list of questions they wanted to ask the doctor.


Dr. Williams is part of the BBC Two Trust Me I & # 39; m a Doctor team

The test results, including body mass index (BMI), body measurements and blood pressure, were written on a board in the room, so that the attending physician, Dr. Alex Maxwell, could lead a discussion in around them.

The group also talked about sensitive issues such as intestinal problems, their relationship with food and their mental well-being.

The aim of sessions like this is to give patients more information about their condition because they learn from the doctor and others, as well as ensure that the time of the GP is used efficiently.

  • Trust me, I'm a doctor: does music make exercise more effective?

Anthony says it is not mandatory to have other people in the room. "In fact, it was quite the opposite: once the group got underway, we almost formed a bond and everyone was quite open, I don't think anyone felt the need to contain themselves."

Other patients said that the group session meant more time with the GP than an individual appointment would allow, and that sharing experiences with other people with the same condition could be enriching.

But there are obvious fears. Could this be the thin end of the wedge, the beginning of the end of the individual appointment?

Peer support

Both the Royal College of GP and the Patient Association say that while this type of scheme might work for some, patients should still have the option of a traditional one-on-one appointment if they wish.

Dr. Emily Symington of the NHS Croydon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which includes the Parchmore practice, said there was no plan to end conventional appointments.

"Replacing the individual appointment is certainly not something we are looking to achieve or anticipate at all.

"In addition, a group consultation is for patients who already have a diagnosis.

"Nobody is going to diagnose you in a group, that would not be appropriate. The group consultation adds something extra."

She says there are measures to ensure the confidentiality of information shared within the group, and patients who attend can still request and receive an individual appointment.

But group appointments could provide real benefits for patients who manage long-term health conditions, offering more access to their doctor, with a valuable peer support network included.

Trust me, I'm a doctor continues on BBC2 on Wednesdays at 20:00 GMT and is available on iPlayer.