130,000 Norwegians lack a GP. This may be bad news for patients.
Hospitals across the country report full emergency departments and great work pressure.
At the same time, GPs and emergency physicians talk about a great deal to do with many acutely ill patients with respiratory infections.
Several hospitals are now struggling to discharge patients. There is no capacity for the municipalities to take care of them. One of the hospitals is St. Olavs hospital.
Marte Kvittum Tangen is the leader of the Norwegian Association for General Practice. She believes that the pressure on hospitals is also affected by the crisis among GPs. She says important knowledge disappears every day.
– Experienced GPs quit. They are absolutely necessary to guide and support younger colleagues, she says.
This increases uncertainty, and the pressure on hospitals will increase.
She says that the continuity of the GP scheme is declining month by month. 130,000 missing GPs. Tangen describes it as a general practitioner crisis in this country.
The GP is missing in several places
– It is difficult to recruit and keep general practitioners in nursing homes as well, she says.
This goes beyond the municipalities. They need general practitioners in nursing homes and in short-term places.
Tangen believes that the GP crisis is important at both ends: both for the number of patients who must be admitted to hospital and to take care of those who are discharged.
Saves lives and saves money
It has recently been documented that there is a direct connection between the same GP and hospital admissions. It is confirmed in a Norwegian study.
It is published in the British Journal of General Practice. More than 4.5 million Norwegians are included in the study.
– It has a significant health benefit in having had the same GP over many years. It can save lives and save costs because there will be fewer hospital admissions, says first author Hogne Sandvik.
He believes the study proves that continuity in the GP scheme is important, also for mortality and the use of medication.
Sandvik is a GP and researcher at the National Competence Center for Emergency Medicine.
The study shows that:
- For patients who have had the same GP for more than 15 years, the probability of being admitted to hospital decreases by 30 percent. Mortality is reduced by 25 percent.
- The first time with a new GP, the patient has a 28 percent higher probability of being admitted to hospital urgently. You are 25 percent more likely to die.
– Our research shows how much value it is that your GP has known you for many years, says Hogne Sandvik.
The survey is part of a larger project called “Use of health services in Norway”.
The project has linked data from several health registries. The data is anonymised. It is funded by the National Competence Center for Emergency Medicine.
The researchers used data from the period 2015–2018. The outcome measures (use of emergency room, acute hospitalizations and death) are taken from 2018, while data on morbidity are taken from the three previous years (2015–2017).
The GP knows the patient
Hogne Sandvik says that GPs who have had the same patients for many years have gained good knowledge.
– The doctor becomes in a way a specialist in individual patients. They will therefore often be able to detect changes in health at an early stage.
Sandvik says that the GP must have an overview and coordinate the measures around the patient. This is important because many people live with several different diseases.
This means that they are examined and treated by various specialists and departments in hospitals. Some patients are treated for one disease, but the treatment may aggravate another disease.
– Politicians must understand that it is vital to keep the experienced GPs. That is crucial, he says.