General practitioners: ‘Care not always optimal during a pandemic’

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Many GPs experienced an undesired increase in their duties during the corona pandemic, for example because a lot of care was transferred from medical specialists in hospitals and mental health care to the GP. Because patients could not always be referred and were treated longer by their GP, the care they received was not always optimal.

This is what RIVM concludes in a research report on the impact of the corona pandemic on general practitioner care and the lessons learned. To this end, researchers conducted focus group interviews with 27 GPs.

For example, taking over checks and measurements, which are normally done by a medical specialist, was often experienced as pleasant by patients, but as undesirable by many GPs. It increased their workload and, moreover, the hospital was paid for it through the DBC.


Another point that emerged from the study is that some of the GPs experienced barriers to referring patients due to the busyness in the hospitals and the scaling down of care. As a result, patients often stayed with their GP for longer, while, according to the GPs, this was by no means good for every patient. Referring to mental health care also became more difficult in the course of the pandemic, as a result of which the care for these patients ended up more on the plate of general practitioners. According to the researchers, some of the GPs indicate that they do not consider this to be optimal care, because they are insufficiently trained in the supervision of heavier patients.


GPs also often saw a decline in patients in their practice, but did not always know what caused this decline. During the pandemic, GPs had little insight into the demand for care and the complaints experienced by patients who may have avoided the GP practice for fear of infection. This makes it difficult for them to estimate what the health effect of care avoidance was and will be.

According to the researchers, GPs have made many changes during the pandemic. For example, they often adjusted the frequency of checks in integrated care, care was provided at a distance more often and the number of contacts via telephone or video calls and e-consultations increased. GPs are optimistic about some changes and not about others.

Future vision

General practitioners, other care providers, patients and policy makers should jointly develop a vision for the future of the tasks of the general practitioner and the general practice. This is to maintain the desirable changes from the corona pandemic, according to the RIVM researchers. Drawing up this vision and an action plan on the role of primary care is also relevant in the context of pandemic preparedness, they say.

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