The majority of GPs following National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence advice on the management of lower urinary tract symptoms in men say they have resulted in a cost-saving, according to a poll by GlaxoSmithKline.
The survey, which included 201 GPs, found that of the 46% that had implemented NICE's guidance 80% reported a reduction in referral costs to secondary care.
What is also interesting is that, despite the guidance having been published a year ago, more than half of GPs are still not following it, and of these more than a quarter reported having high referral costs, highlighting the missed opportunity for potential savings.
Of those actively implementing the guidelines, 41% said they had gained greater confidence in carrying out the relevant diagnostic tests, which has helped improved decision making on when to refer patients on to secondary care, while 33% of those not following NICE's advice said they felt unsure about when to do so.
According to the poll, lack of education and training is the primary barrier to implementation of the guidelines; 57% of the GPs agreed that further practical guidance would help improve the management of LUTS in primary care while more than half said they would appreciate more specialised training.
The findings are particularly pertinent given the current saving drive in the NHS. LUTS is a highly prevalent condition, with an estimated 3.2 million men affected in the UK, and treating its most common cause - benign prostatic hyperplasia - alone is estimated to cost more than £180 million a year, 60% of which is attributed to secondary care.
NICE's guideline aims to provide clinical advice on how to best diagnose and manage the condition more effectively within primary care, but the poll shows "the importance of continuing to raise awareness and drive uptake of the guideline to ensure optimal patient care at a time when NHS resources are stretched and there are increasing pressures for savings to be made,” noted Jon Rees, GP with a special interest in urology at Backwell and Nailsea Medical Group.
"The demand for more support via education and training with the practicing GP community is clear and would also ultimately assist with the Government_s Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention (QIPP) agenda,” added Emma Malcolm, Chief Executive at Prostate Action, commenting on the findings.