Clinical commissioning group (CCG) leaders have been discussing how to engage general practice as opposition to the Health Bill continues to grow.
The BMA has called for the Health Bill to be withdrawn and a recent poll found 98% of RCGP members thought it should urge its scrapping.
How CCGs engage GPs and practices was discussed this month in an NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement webinar featuring Manchester GP Dr Robert Varnum, clinical lead for commissioning at the NHS Institute, National Association of Primary Care executive member Dr Johnny Marshall and chief executive officer of North East Essex CCG Dr Shane Gordon.
Dr Marshall says it is important for practices to consider themselves part of their CCG alongside its governing body and management team.
He adds: 'One key thing is making sure we are all united around a common purpose.
'The danger at the moment is that all the discussions are round organisation design, architecture and governance. There are various bits of guidance that may mean we lose sight of this common purpose.'
He says this joint goal is not commissioning but improving the health of patients.
He adds: 'This is not about clinicians becoming managers and taking on unfamiliar roles. It's about how we create an environment where there are close working relationships between clinicians and managers so that expertise is brought to bear improving the health of the population. Yes we must carry out our statutory functions but we should never lose sight of this common goal.'
Dr Marshall: practices and CCGs must be united with a common goal (Photograph: NTI)
Support and coaching
Dr Marshall also stresses the need for support, training and coaching to enable those involved to perform the best that they can.
Dr Varnum says that it is vital to recognise that the GP audience will include both enthusiasts and sceptics.
He suggests that the three key questions that CCG leaders need to be equipped to answer from GPs is: 'Why should I?', 'How can I?' and 'What should I?'
To those asking why, Dr Varnum says: 'For a long time GPs have been sitting outside both the system of commissioning and also the system of improving the health of the local population. We are becoming increasingly invited to participate and that's good.'
Dr Varnum says that it is important CCGs do not act merely as just 'rebadged PCTs'.
He picks up Dr Marshall's point that CCGs have had a lot of structural questions to attend to which has meant it has been difficult to build a sense of purpose to help unify local practices.
|How CCGs can engage GPs|
Dr Gordon gave examples of ways to encourage leadership. Top of the list of critical factors was making patient care better. Following this was making GPs' own professional life better or helping things to run more smoothly. After this was professional kudos and then, finally, financial incentives.
He suggests CCGs set out their vision, values and brand. Those looking for examples could go to his website: neessexccg.nhs.uk
Dr Gordon adds: 'Give GPs something that adds value, which helps them do their job. Information is a powerful currency. Information about changes to services, clinical updates. Become the conduit.
Point out opportunities and threats to GPs as businesses as well as professionals.'
He encourages the personal touch. 'Be responsive to people. Build trust. Act on concerns and show you've acted. They will listen to you more in the future. Don't get distracted by the authorisation process, you will lose engagement.'
What tips did they have to encourage engagement?
Dr Gordon suggested keeping GPs in touch with news involving contract negotiations between CCGs and providers.
Dr Marshall thinks it is 'vital for people to have the opportunity to be engaged at whatever level they wish'. He mentioned a YouTube clip his CCG had produced.
His final message for GPs was: 'Practices are CCGs. Participation is the only way to overcome the challenges that we face.
'Otherwise we risk recreating PCTs. I'd be concerned that nothing changes as a result.'
For CCG leaders Dr Gordon adds: 'Get out there and engage with people on a personal level. Talk to people, meet them in their own practice and show your face.'