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BACKGROUND:Previous systematic reviews have found that nurses and pharmacists can provide equivalent, or higher, quality of care for some tasks performed by GPs in primary care. There is a lack of economic evidence for this substitution. AIM:To explore the costs and outcomes of role substitution between GPs and nurses, pharmacists, and allied health professionals in primary care. DESIGN AND SETTING:A systematic review of economic evaluations exploring role substitution of allied health professionals in primary care was conducted. Role substitution was defined as 'the substitution of work that was previously completed by a GP in the past and is now completed by a nurse or allied health professional'. METHOD:The following databases were searched: Ovid MEDLINE, CINAHL, Cochrane Library, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), and the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination. The review followed guidance from the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA). RESULTS:Six economic evaluations were identified. There was some limited evidence that nurse-led care for common minor health problems was cost-effective compared with GP care, and that nurse-led interventions for chronic fatigue syndrome and pharmacy-led services for the medicines management of coronary heart disease and chronic pain were not. In South Korea, community health practitioners delivered primary care services for half the cost of physicians. The review did not identify studies for other allied health professionals such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists. CONCLUSION:There is limited economic evidence for role substitution in primary care; more economic evaluations are needed.


  • Allied Health Personnel, Cost-Benefit Analysis, General Practitioners, Humans, Nurse Practitioners, Pharmacists, Primary Health Care/economics, Professional Role
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e304-e313
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Issue number682
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019

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