Research summary
30 Jun 2014

This briefing studies the effects of demand for services of improved access to primary care.

Summary

Improving access to general practice and other primary care services is a key concern for policy-makers and practitioners. Both the Coalition Government and the Opposition have made this a priority for reforming the NHS.

In October 2013, the Prime Minister launched his Challenge Fund, which is financing innovative pilot schemes across the country designed to improve access to general practice; and in a speech in May 2014, Labour Leader Ed Miliband outlined a range of new options for improving access to family doctor services, including plans to re-introduce the 48-hour GP access target.

NHS England commissioned this briefing by the Nuffield Trust to ensure that the successful pilots from the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund were in a position to learn from past experience and research.

This work highlights the need for clarity about the underlying aim and target population of any service that sets out to improve access to general practice Rebecca Rosen, report author and Senior Fellow in Health Policy, Nuffield Trust

Meeting Need or Fuelling Demand? Improved access to primary care and supply-induced demand examines how far increased access to general practice and other primary care services will deal with unmet need, or whether these efforts may only serve to stimulate additional use of services that would not have otherwise occurred.

The briefing, based on a workshop held at the Nuffield Trust, also looks at clinical practice in direct access primary care that stimulates additional use of other services. It considers the role that service providers can play in modifying supply-induced demand, and whether it is possible to alter patient’s behaviour and demand for different forms of primary care services.

Finally, it identifies some important considerations for those evaluating the impact of the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund.

“This work highlights the need for clarity about the underlying aim and target population of any service that sets out to improve access to general practice. Services that seek only to extend access … may end up resolving clinical problems and generating additional demand in approximately equal measure.”

Rebecca Rosen, report author and Senior Fellow in Health Policy, Nuffield Trust.

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