A new study revealed that German GPs were beginning to delegate tasks to non-physicians and should extend delegated tasks to their practice staff, but the implementation of task shifting depends on different aspects, such as legal requirements, adequate payment and qualified staff.

A delegation of task shifting from general practitioners (GPs) to non-physicians would be important in primary care in the upcoming days. Hence, the aim of the study was to evaluate the attitudes towards the concept of task shifting and to identify predictors of a positive attitude towards task shifting from the perspective of GPs.

The shifting of medical tasks to non-physician healthcare staff has been allowed in Germany since 2008. Most GPs participating in previous studies have agreed that task shifting saves the physicians’ time and relieves them of some of their workload, especially that concerning home visits.

Therefore, task shifting as a transfer of clinical tasks from a physician to another health care staff member is crucial for health care teams consisting of physicians and non-physicians. Moreover, high-performing team-based care could be associated with the redistribution of tasks in addition to the shifting of tasks from clinicians to non-clinicians. 

The cross-sectional questionnaire study analysed attitudes towards the concept of task shifting and delegated tasks from the perspective of GPs who were recruited in the German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein. Descriptive statistics and binary regression analyses were computed to identify potential predictors of a positive attitude towards task shifting.

Out of 1538 questionnaires distributed, 577 GP questionnaires were returned (response rate: 37.5%). A total of 53.2% of the respondents were male, and 37.3% were female. A positive attitude regarding task shifting was shown by 49% of the participating GPs. The highest level of agreement (95.2%) was found for time savings with task shifting.

A lower agreement (39%) was found regarding the lack of clarity concerning the responsibilities and legal aspects with regards to task shifting. The most frequently delegated tasks were recording electrocardiograms and measuring blood glucose levels. A positive attitude towards task shifting was positively associated with higher job satisfaction and a need for qualified staff.

The researchers said a sample of GPs for this study was very open-minded towards the concept of task shifting. Germany is just beginning this delegation, but the implementation of task shifting depends on different aspects, such as legal requirements, adequate payment and qualified staff. Finally, there is a need for continuing professional development in primary care teams, especially for non-clinical practice staff.