GP surgeries to see 15 patients at a time

Doctors involved in the pilots said that they had reduced the time spent repeating advice

Doctors involved in the pilots said that they had reduced the time spent repeating adviceANTHONY DEVLIN PA

Some patients taking part in group appointments said they benefited from receiving support from other patients, the head of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) said.

Doctors involved in the pilots said that they had reduced the time spent repeating advice and that patients were given as much as 90 minutes to discuss their condition with fellow sufferers.

'GP appointments are supposed to be a private matter where you can openly talk about your most personal health issues, ' she said.

Other benefits include patients having longer consultations.

Patients will speak to admin staff or healthcare assistants in the two hour appointments, while a GP will attend for an hour to discuss tests and treatments.

However medical bodies say that is not the primary motivation behind the new scheme.

Group GP appointments allowing patients to have their consultation together are being trialled across England.

The group appointments option is not presently available.

The group sessions are now on trial in London, Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle and will be rolled out across the country later in the year as part of a new ten-year plan for the NHS.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the RCGP, said: "We are already aware of practices that are offering "shared" appointments for patients with similar conditions and the feedback has been very positive".

"However, this approach will not work for everyone and Global Positioning System will know what best suits their patients and practices - and there is no pressure on patients to participate if they would prefer to continue seeing their GP in a one-to-one consultation".

The Patients Association said group consultations could be helpful to some people by providing an opportunity to have discussions about their conditions.

'It could also be reassuring to patients to see others share their concerns and challenges, and can provide the benefit of peer support, ' Chief Executive Rachel Power said.

'If you're discussing things in front of a group of strangers, you might as well tell the local town crier so he can shout it from the rooftops.

The new model of appointments is intended as an alternative to one-to-one GP appointments, and not to replace them.

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