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Task shifting from general practitioners to practice assistants and nurses in primary care: a cross-sectional survey in 34 countries.

Groenewegen, P., Boerma, W.G.W., Spreeuwenberg, P., Seifert, B., Schäfer, W., Batenburg, R., Tuyl, L. van. Task shifting from general practitioners to practice assistants and nurses in primary care: a cross-sectional survey in 34 countries. Primary Health Care Research and Development: 2022, 23, Art. e60
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Aim
To describe variation in task shifting from GPs to practice assistants/nurses in 34 countries and to explain differences by analysing associations with characteristics of the GPs and their practices and features of the health care systems.

Background
Redistribution of tasks and responsibilities in primary care are driven by changes in demand, such as the growing number of patients with chronic conditions, and workforce developments, including staff shortage. The need to manage an expanding range of services has led to adaptations in the skill-mix of primary care teams. These developments are hampered by barriers between professional domains.

Methods
Data were collected between 2011 and 2013 through a cross-sectional survey among approximately 7,200 general practitioners (GPs) in 34 countries. Task shifting is measured through a composite score of GPs' self-reported shifting of tasks. Independent variables at GP and practice level are as follows: innovativeness; part-time working; availability of staff; location and population of the practice. Country-level independent variables are as follows: demand for and supply of care, nurse prescribing, and professionalisation of practice assistants/nurses. Multilevel analysis is used to account for clustering of GPs in countries.

Findings
Countries vary in the degree of task shifting. Regarding GP and practice characteristics, use of electronic health records and availability of support staff in the practice are positively associated with task shifting and GPs' working hours negatively, in line with our hypotheses. Age of the GPs is, contrary to our hypothesis, positively related to task shifting. These variables explain 11% of the variance at GP level. Two country variables are related to task shifting: a lower percentage of practices without support staff in a country and nurse prescribing rights coincide with more task shifting. The percentage of practices without support staff has the strongest relationship, explaining 73% of the country variation.