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'Care plans have limited benefit'

Using care plans to manage patients with long-term conditions has limited benefits, researchers have discovered. 

A new study published in the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP) found that no relationship between care plans, care planning and patient outcomes. 

Researchers from the Universities of Manchester, Cambridge, Keele and York recruited 38 practices. 

Seventeen of those reported relatively high levels of care plans, and 21 showed lower levels, based on data from the General Practice Patient Survey, 

The researchers then recruited 2,439 patients in those practices and followed them over a year. 

The study showed that few patients had access to a written care plan. Patients in practices which were more likely to use care plans said they had more experience of care planning. 

However, there was no link between care plans and patient outcomes. 

Dr David Reeves from the University of Manchester Centre for Primary Care said: “Even in our “high” care planning practices, numbers of patients reporting a written care plan were quite low, and from interviews it was clear that many patients did not understand what a care plan was, or confused it with standard information leaflets given out by their GP. 

“Hence we are unable to say from the results whether a well-designed care plan can make a difference to patient health outcomes.”

The full study is available to view on the BJGP website.