Dr Maureen Baker: The way towards patient-centred care

How can the NHS meet the needs of the rapidly increasing number of patients with multiple long-term conditions at a time when funding and resources are tighter than ever?

This is the crux of the new independent inquiry set up by the RCGP into patient-centred care in the 21st century.

Over the next few weeks, a panel of 12 experts - chaired by former NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar - will explore how to find cost-effective solutions to the medical, social and financial challenges posed by rising levels of multimorbidity.

The inquiry will focus on three crucial areas - what changes must be made to NHS care in order to improve patient outcomes, how NHS resources will be deployed in a financially constrained environment and how general practice can support new models of care.

Three seminars will be held during July and August, involving patients and health professionals from across the NHS. We hope to release the initial findings in September.

While the RCGP felt it was important for the inquiry to be independent, we are obviously expecting general practice to loom large and to provide many of the solutions.

But we cannot do this without extra funding and support, including at least 8,000 more GPs.

As our campaign, Put Patients First: Back General Practice, has highlighted, patient numbers have soared to an all-time high of 340m consultations a year - 40m more than five years ago - while funding has dropped to an all-time low of 8.39%.

Yet if GP services are properly supported, the rest of the NHS will benefit, not least from reductions in costly emergency admissions to hospitals.

General practice is still the most cost-effective means of providing patient care and the inquiry provides us with a fantastic opportunity to look at its efficacy and value in an economically restricted environment.

It will also make recommendations about what needs to change in order for us to continue to deliver high standards of patient care.

  • Dr Baker is a GP in Lincoln.

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