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Measuring demand in general practice

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In the autumn of 2015, we commissioned a study in partnership with NIHR CLAHRC West and the University of Bath, to explore how demand is measured and managed by GP practices in the West of England.

Demand for Primary Care services exceeds the available capacity. With increasing cost pressures, increase in patient expectation and advances in medicine, more people are visiting their GP than ever before. The West of England AHSN is advocating an evidence-informed approach to measuring and managing demand.

There were three main aims to this project:

  1. To review existing literature and to scan regional and national projects that aim to measure
    and manage demand.
  2. To understand how GP practices currently measure and manage demand and how they use
    routinely collected data to predict demand and strengthen capacity planning.
  3. To gain an overview of the three Prime Minister Challenge Fund sites (now called the GP Access Fund) in the region and to determine their approach to measuring and managing demand.

The study highlights a lack of research in this area and a lack of continuity in national projects aimed
at supporting GP practices to understand demand. It therefore provided strong evidence supporting the need for further investigation of this area.

Work with GP practices revealed no definitive or widespread approach to measuring demand in primary care. However it confirmed that practices and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) were struggling to cope with apparently increasing demand and were very keen to engage in further activities that might help understand and manage it better.

The project highlighted the great potential to harness routine data to produce a real time picture of GP demand while also informing a predictive model to estimate future demand at practice, CCG and national level. The team are exploring funding opportunities to develop this further.

Download a copy of the full report here for an analysis of the findings and recommendations for next steps.