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GPs could set goals with patients to help improve their health, research finds

Research from the University of East Anglia (UEA) has found that if GPs and patients work together to set health goals, it could help the one in four people in the UK who are living with multiple health conditions.

The UEA study, which has been published in the British Journal of General Practice and BMJ Open, found that patients with two or more long-term health conditions found it useful to be involved in their own care, setting realistic health and wellbeing goals with their GPs.

Analysis by the Health Foundation shows that that one in four people in the UK are living with two or more physical or mental health conditions, with pain and depression common across all ages. People living in deprived areas develop multiple health problems earlier than those in the least deprived areas.

The news comes as UEA launches a new training programme for clinicians around goal-setting with patients which has been accredited by the Royal College of General Practitioners. The free course has been developed by UEA Health and Social Care Partners, in collaboration with National Institute for Health Research and Futurelearn, and is available from 4 November.

This course is designed for GPs (GP trainees, newly trained, qualified or experienced in general practice) but is accessible to all clinicians working with patients, particularly in the primary care setting.

Dr Alice Shiner, GP Partner, Research Fellow and Honorary Senior Lecturer at UEA said: "This is largely a new approach for both GPs and patients. It has the potential to improve the quality of life for patients and seems to be more satisfying for GPs too. I personally believe that it is vital to listen to what is most important to patients, empowering them to try to achieve key goals in their lives."

Around four out of five GP consultations involve a patient with multiple health conditions and the UEA study found that GPs saw the more holistic goal-led approach, a positive experience.

GPs are working under increased pressure due to staff shortages, large patient numbers per practice, and multiple demands on their time.

Around four out of five GP consultations involves a patient with multiple health conditions, but it can be difficult for clinicians to address all of their issues, particularly when consultation times are usually limited to 10 minutes with GPs often having to focus on a single condition, instead of taking a more general overview.

Researchers found that GPs were positive about the more holistic goal-led approach used in the study.

They also found that by setting clear goals, patients felt more prepared with a proactive action plan for their health.

For more information about the course, visit the website.