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Lorraine Pollard, Stephen Rogers, Jonathan Shribman, David Sprigings and Paul Sinfield contributed equally to this work.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
The first draft of the paper was prepared by LP, and then all authors contributed to its development and completion. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
The National Health Service is reconfiguring health care services in order to meet the increasing challenge of providing care for people with long-term conditions and to reduce the demand on specialised outpatient hospital services by enhancing primary care. A review of cardiology referrals to specialised care and the literature on referral management inspired the development of a new GP role in Cardiology. This new extended role was developed to enable GPs to diagnose and manage patients with mild to moderate heart failure or atrial fibrillation and to use a range of diagnostics effectively in primary care. This entailed GPs participating in a four-session short course with on-going clinical supervision. The new role was piloted in a small number of GP practices in one county in England for four months. This study explores the impact of piloting the Extended Cardiology role on the GP’s role, patients’ experience, service delivery and quality.
A mixed methods approach was employed including semi-structured interviews with GPs, a patient experience survey, a quality review of case notes, and analysis on activity and referral data.
The participating GPs perceived the extended GP role as a professional development opportunity that had the potential to reduce healthcare utilisation and costs, through a reduction in referrals, whilst meeting the patient’s wishes for the provision of care closer to home. Patient experience of the new GP service was positive. The standard of clinical practice was judged acceptable. There was a fall in referrals during the study period.
This new role in cardiology was broadly welcomed as a model of care by the participating GPs and by patients, because of the potential to improve the quality of care for patients in primary care and reduce costs. As this was a pilot study further development and continuing evaluation of the model is recommended.