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September 13, 2019
GPs’ confidence levels have improved for the sixth year running, according to new research released today.
The Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking Healthcare Confidence Index – an annual survey of GPs, dentists and pharmacists on the outlook for their industries – measures overall business confidence using a blended figure of short-term and long-term projections.
Confidence among GPs improved for the sixth successive year to -28, up from a score of -37 in 2018. This nine-point increase means that GPs’ year-on-year confidence also saw the largest increase of all primary care professionals.
Respondents were asked to rate their confidence in both short and long-term business prospects, with the results for both having improved year-on-year (+4 and -59 respectively in 2019 compared to -9 and -66 in 2018).
Despite this continued growth, GPs remain the least confident of all primary care professionals. In comparison, pharmacists gave a reading of -17 (a six-point increase year-on-year) and dentists -3 (a one-point decrease year-on-year).
Using technology to manage demand
69 per cent of GPs expect the average practice to have more than 10,000 patients in five years’ time, compared to the current average of around 7,000.
Even so, 36 per cent expect the quality of services provided by the NHS to improve, possibly as a result of digital services continuing to advance across the profession. Indeed, 44 per cent of GPs now expect to be using technologies such as mobile consultation apps within five years, to help manage patient demand and reduce footfall to practices.
The introduction of new technology may also go some way towards alleviating ongoing concerns around succession. 29 per cent of GPs plan to retire within five years – a figure which increases to 49 per cent in the next decade.
Improving profit expectations
While 38 per cent of GPs now expect profits to increase in the coming year (up from 26 per cent in 2018), a substantial majority (82 per cent) also expect financial pressures to rise over the next five years.
Opinion among respondents is divided as to whether the reforms underway in primary care are a threat (50 per cent) or an opportunity (42 per cent) for practices. This could explain why 38 per cent of GPs cite ‘too much uncertainty about the future of general practice’ as their reason for not wanting to become a partner.
Despite this, 62 per cent of GPs would encourage friends or family to follow them into general practice – the highest proportion for five years.
Ian Crompton, head of healthcare banking services at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking,
said: “With practice sizes forecast to grow, technology is likely to play an increasing role in maintaining the highest standards of patient care.
“It’s heartening to see confidence levels continue to increase, but GPs have been less confident than dentists and pharmacists throughout the life of this index, perhaps because of the pressures that they anticipate arising in the years ahead and compounded by the lack of people entering the profession behind them.
“By understanding the challenges and opportunities they face, we can provide the knowledge, insights and products that GPs need. We’ll be by the side of these businesses as they pursue growth, ensuring the provision of essential services in years to come.”
A more positive outlook overall
The overall Healthcare Confidence Index increased from -21 in 2018 to -16 this year – the highest level since the survey began in 2011. Throughout the lifetime of the index, short-term confidence has always been more positive than long-term, and is now +21 against -53 – a difference of 74 points.
Download the report here