What evidence is there to support skill mix changes between GPs, pharmacists and practice nurses in the care of elderly people living in the community?

Aust New Zealand Health Policy. 2009 Sep 11;6:23. doi: 10.1186/1743-8462-6-23.


Background: Workforce shortages in Australia are occurring across a range of health disciplines but are most acute in general practice. Skill mix change such as task substitution is one solution to workforce shortages. The aim of this systematic review was to explore the evidence for the effectiveness of task substitution between GPs and pharmacists and GPs and nurses for the care of older people with chronic disease. Published, peer reviewed (black) and non-peer reviewed (grey) literature were included in the review if they met the inclusion criteria.

Results: Forty-six articles were included in the review. Task substitution between pharmacists and GPs and nurses and GPs resulted in an improved process of care and patient outcomes, such as improved disease control. The interventions were either health promotion or disease management according to guidelines or use of protocols, or a mixture of both. The results of this review indicate that pharmacists and nurses can effectively provide disease management and/or health promotion for older people with chronic disease in primary care. While there were improvements in patient outcomes no reduction in health service use was evident.

Conclusion: When implementing skill mix changes such as task substitution it is important that the health professionals' roles are complementary otherwise they may simply duplicate the task performed by other health professionals. This has implications for the way in which multidisciplinary teams are organised in initiatives such as the GP Super Clinics.