Plans to move a range of treatments from hospitals to primary care are being implemented ahead of schedule. The target to have 1,000 specialist GPs taking referrals from fellow GPs by 2004 has been achieved. A guide to developing the role of ‘Nurses with Special Interests’ has been produced with examples of how nurses in specialist roles are improving care for patients.In the last year 11,000 patients were seen by GPs with special interests in their local practice. The range of services they provided include, neurology, rheumatology, and ophthalmology. Waiting times for all specialties are less than 13 weeks. In one case a specialist GP in cardiology is performing twice weekly patient assessments. Waiting times have been reduced from six months to six weeks.
The Department of Health estimates that there are several million out-patients appointments that could take place in the community if there are the GPs with the specialist skills to treat them.