Patients with four or more conditions receive appointments that are, on average, only 14 seconds longer than those with one condition.
A report from The Health Foundation, ‘Understanding the health care needs of people with multiple conditions’, found that consultation times in primary care for patients with multimorbidity were not much longer than those with only one condition.
The report states that the number of people in the UK with four or more conditions is predicted to double between 2015 and 2035.
This increase is down to more people surviving diseases like cancer, stroke and heart disease because of better treatment. But this means that people are living with these health conditions, as well as others that arise as they age, the report states
Despite that, their consultation times in primary care are no longer than those with less complex needs.
The number of primary care consultations a patient has also increases with each additional condition. Over the two-year study period, those with four or more conditions had an average of 29 consultations, compared with 10 for those with a single condition.
People with cancer, cardiovascular disease or COPD and two or more additional conditions have primary care prescription costs that are more than three times the level for those with no additional conditions.
The authors say that further work is needed to develop primary care models that can improve outcomes for people with multimorbidity. More flexible appointment schedules, allowing for longer consultations at times, might benefit patients with multiple conditions, particularly in more-deprived areas, they say.
Sarah Deeny, assistant director of data analytics at The Health Foundation, and one of the briefing’s authors, said: ‘Nearly one in four people living in England have two or more health conditions, which may lead to poorer quality of life and a greater risk of premature death. This number is expected to grow. To care for people living with multiple conditions effectively, it is critical that the NHS long-term plan identifies the complexity of their needs.
‘Patients need support to help them manage their care. Resourcing primary care so GPs, nurses and other staff have the time to work together with patients to help them manage their conditions better is critical.’