NHS England’s Acting Medical Director for Primary Care and a GP in south east London examines how Primary Care Networks represent a new philosophy in the way health and care is provided in our communities:
Having emerged from a whirlwind six months of engagement on the NHS Long Term Plan and negotiations around the GP contract, I’m excited about the opportunities ahead of us.
I have the privilege of working as a GP in south east London – and felt the pressures that we see in general practice – while having the opportunity as a Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) leader, and now at NHS England, to work with national and local partners on the solutions.
What I’m absolutely clear about is that local health professionals, working together with local people, have these solutions. They know what is right for their area and they need the backing to do it. As a national organisation we need to support and facilitate this, but at the same time, know when to back off.
And that is why, for me, Primary Care Networks represent a new philosophy for how we deliver heath and care in our communities. Structure is not the most important thing here. It’s about GP practices and other health and care professionals, collaborating and working with other services and patients in their area to decide what is right.
The role of the individual GP practice is still priceless but this has to be a combination of local practices, who have that relationship and knowledge of their local area, collaborating with other services and local people in a way that provides resilience for the staff. The network is a stepping stone into a different space for way we deliver health and care – small enough to care for the local population but big enough to meet the growing and changing needs of the patients.
At the heart of the NHS Long Term Plan is a need for strong primary care services to be provided closer to home. But, with primary care struggling to meet all the needs of a growing and ageing population, it is essential that we stabilise general practice. And that is why the recently agreed five-year GP Contract will increase core funding by almost a billion a year by 2023-24.
There will also be support for improvements in digital infrastructure, and a state backed indemnity scheme that will not only relieve cost pressures for staff, but also allow a level of flexibility that will be key to agile, resilient services.
These are some of the things that practices need after years of change and pressure.
One of the most fundamental parts of primary care of the future is having a workforce that can deal with the wider social determinants of health. So, the Network contract providing £1.7billion of investment by 2023-24 will provide support for recruiting 20,000 more health professionals.
This will start with more pharmacists, that are already making a huge impact in general practice, social prescribing link workers that can bridge the gap between a patient’s medical and other needs. It will later bring in physician associates, physios and community paramedics, and we have phased it that way so it is realistic and represents the training cycle. And, as well as this diverse new workforce, we remain committed to recruiting more of our valued doctors and nurses.
I feel a genuine sense of optimism and we have a real opportunity together to make this happen.
Ultimately, we need to make things more enjoyable and sustainable in general practice and primary care and out of that will come a better offer for patients.
Listen to Nikki’s podcast – the new GP contract & where the new money will be invested.
You can follow Dr Kanani on Twitter: @NikkiKF