Background: Increasing chronic conditions and multimorbidity is placing growing service pressures on health care, especially primary care services. This comes at a time when GP workforce shortages are starting to be felt across Switzerland, placing a threat on the sustainability of good access to primary care. By establishing multiprofessional teams in primary care, service capacity is increased and the pressures on the GP workforce can be alleviated. The roles of non-medical health professions in primary care are not established so far in Switzerland and the personnel composition of primary care group practices is not known. Therefore this study aims to provide insights into the current composition, educational background and autonomy of the these new professional roles in primary care.
Methods: For this descriptive exploratory study a web-based online survey methodology was used. Group practices were defined as being a medical practice with any specialisation where at least three physicians work together in a team. Based on this restriction 240 eligible group practices were identified in Switzerland. The following four tertiary-level health professions were included in the study: nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and dietitians. Additionally medical practice assistants with couselling competencies were included.
Results: A total of 102 practices answered the questionnaire which is equivalent to an answer rate of 43%. The sample included data from 17 cantons. 46.1% of the practices employed non-physician health professionals. Among the tertiary-level health professions, physiotherapists were the most frequent profession with a total of 78 physiotherapists over all group practices, followed by nurses (43), dietitians (34) and occupational therapists (3). In practices which employ those professionals their average number per practice was 3.4. 25.5% of the practices had health professionals employed with advanced roles and competencies.
Conclusion: The results from this study demonstrate that while nearly 50% of groups practices have established non-physician professionals, only 25% of practices integrate these professionals with advanced roles. Compared with other countries, there would appear to be significant scope to extent and broaden the uptake of non-physician professionals in primary care in Switzerland. Clear policy direction along with supporting regulation and financing arrangements are required.
Keywords: Advanced roles; Personnel composition; Primary care.