New review sets out action to improve patient access to primary care

Neighbourhood teams must be central to improving access to primary care for patients, a new review has said today.

The teams, evolving from Primary Care Networks, should bring together general practice with other parts of the health and care system to improve access and offer regular support to those with complex needs such as elderly people or those with long-term conditions.

Dr Claire Fuller’s review, published today, was commissioned by NHS England to assess how newly formed Integrated Care Systems and primary care could work together to improve care for patients.

The new systems, which go live on 1 July this year, bring together hospital, community and mental health trusts, GPs and other primary care services with local authorities and other care providers to improve access, experience, and outcomes for their local communities.

Dr Fuller, a practising GP, engaged with around 1,000 people across the health sector and has said there should be:

  • Better access to urgent primary care services for patients – ensuring people who need it can be assessed on the same day and offering more choices to those who do not regularly use health services.
  • Improved support to patients who need ongoing care by combining primary care and community teams and ensuring they see the same clinicians on a regular basis.
  • Help to make people live well for longer by working with local government and the voluntary sector to seek out people who need more support before their health problems escalate.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard, who commissioned the review, will now work with colleagues across the system to implement the recommendations.

Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive said: “General practice is the bedrock of the NHS, acting as the front door to healthcare with GPs and other primary care professionals providing treatment, advice and support to more than one million patients everyday.

“I have heard how much people value access to these vital services which is why I commissioned this stocktake to ensure that as we join up services through Integrated Care Systems, we make it as convenient as possible for everyone to get the right care for their needs at the right time.

“I am grateful to Claire Fuller for completing this important work, I welcome the recommendations and look forward to working with colleagues across the NHS to implement them”.

Dr Claire Fuller, said: “As a GP, I know only too well the importance of supporting people – patients who come to my surgery might present with a medical condition but so often this is exacerbated by other factors; financial concerns, housing issues or poor air quality.

“Newly formed Integrated Neighbourhood Teams, which should evolve from Primary Care Networks, are perfectly placed to bring together the right partners to tackle people’s overall health and wellbeing needs.

“I am proud that this review has the commitment from everyone working on the ground – all 42 Integrated Care System leaders who are committed to developing local health systems which meet the unique needs of their different populations – it is now for national organisations to offer them further support around workforce, data and estates”.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Primary care is at the very heart of the NHS and I am hugely grateful to Dr Claire Fuller and all primary care staff who make a difference every day by providing advice and support to patients.

“Her recommendations will improve patients’ access to services, including those with the most complex needs, and help people live well for longer. As part of this the new Health and Care Act sets integrated care systems into law and it’s fantastic to see all 42 NHS Trust chief executives signing up to support primary care.

“Together we need to work with communities to deliver healthcare that works for everyone and we are continuing to work with the NHS to grow the workforce and tackle the COVID backlog”.

The NHS Long Term Plan outlined how Integrated Care Systems would be central to its delivery by bringing together local organisations to redesign care and improve population health, creating shared leadership and action.

Integrated Care Systems, aim to improve the health of all residents, better support people living with multiple and long-term conditions and tackle variation in care.

They will bring together the NHS, local government and other organisations including the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sectors.