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New NIHR funding for research into employment patterns in general practice

06 Aug 2018

The University has secured new NIHR funding for research into the effects of changing employment patterns in general practice

A team of University researchers has been awarded £850,000 by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Service and Delivery Research programme to investigate the impact of changing patterns of employment in GP practices.

The award will be managed by Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust (SRFT) under existing arrangements with Manchester Academic Health Science Centre (MAHSC) and Health Innovation Manchester (HInM); and will involve an experienced interdisciplinary team led by Dr Sharon Spooner, who is based in the Division of Population Health, Health Services Research and Primary Care. This large grant award developed from earlier funds awarded to Dr Spooner from the NIHR School for Primary Care Research during her time as an NIHR Clinical Lecturer.

The funding will be used to investigate the scale, scope and impact of changing patterns of employment in general practice where, in addition to established roles such as GPs and practice nurses, an increasing number and range of different healthcare practitioners are now delivering patient care.

Dr Spooner’s team - including research colleagues based in the Centre for Primary Care Research, Health Economics and the Alliance Manchester Business School - will investigate the scale of this shift in employment patterns; how this changes the ‘skill mix’ in general practice, how such ‘new look’ teams work in practice, and the potential impact on health outcomes and overall health care costs.

The research will also involve conducting in-depth studies in a small number of GP practices to look at how changes in skill mix employment are being implemented, and interview staff and patients about their experience of the new arrangements.

Dr Spooner explains:

 “Unprecedented pressure on general practice services when it is difficult to recruit additional GPs and practice nurses means that GP practices must recruit newer types of practitioners to meet the challenges of providing health care. At the moment, there is uncertainty about how strategies which change the general practice workforce will affect what happens with health care. This new research will pull together information from national and grass-roots levels to understand what happens when practitioners from a wider range of professional backgrounds, such as pharmacists, physician associates, physiotherapists, paramedics are working in GP practices. 

 “We will gather evidence about how diversification of the general practice workforce affects the delivery of health care in terms of quality, costs and outcomes, and about how patients and staff negotiate these changes.

 “Our research will help to inform the future direction of policy and guide commissioners and providers about how to work towards a balance of practitioners in their workforce which leads to better health care outcomes.”