The 'proactive care programme', pioneered by Folkestone GP Dr Tuan Nguyen, was launched in Shepway, Dover and Deal by South Kent Coast CCG.
NHS Kent and Medway said that initial evaluation of the programme, looking at the outcomes of 17 patients, identified potential savings of £2,000 per patient per year.
The programme, launched in May 2012, offers selected high-risk patients and people with long-term conditions 12 weeks of intensive support from community services, led by their GP.
So far 20 out of 32 GP practices in the South Kent Coast CCG area have joined the programme, 34 patients have completed it and 112 are currently taking part.
Dr Nguyen previously piloted the proactive programme in Anfield, Liverpool in 2011. Over the seven-month period that the pilot ran across five practices in Anfield, hospital admissions for ambulatory care sensitive conditions fell by 83% compared to the previous year, and savings of £20,000 were identified.
Dr Nguyen said he was hopeful that the scheme could save the NHS thousands of pounds in the future. ‘It saves £2,000 per patient and 100 patients have gone through - that would be £200,000 already. And that’s for a small number of practices.’
In Kent the scheme has so far been ‘pretty much cost neutral’, Dr Nguyen said. ‘We haven’t given any new contracts to the community services, it was a reorganisation of their staff,’ he added.
However, despite the programme’s initial positive outcomes, Dover GP and Kent LMC medical secretary Dr John Allingham said his own practice was taking part in the scheme, and he was sceptical about what it would achieve.
‘When we looked at the patients identified on our list, most we looked at and thought "there’s nothing we can do about it".
Dr Allingham said that one of his own practice’s concerns about getting involved in the scheme was the time commitment involved for GPs.
Dr Nguyen recognised Dr Allingham’s concerns. He said: ‘The amount of effort does seem quite onerous. However once you’ve dealt with these patients [taking part in the programme], those coming up are going to be easier to deal with.’
Dr Nguyen added: ‘We’re improving care to save money but we’re also improving the future health of our population.’
Dr Darren Cocker, chair of South Kent Coast CCG, said: ‘We are delighted that through our collaborative approach, the CCG and local authorities in this area have been able to set up this project which is making a genuine difference to people's lives.’