NHS must 'protect and expand' role of generalists, RCGP report says

Medical generalism must be protected against the ongoing NHS reforms and should be expanded into other disciplines, the RCGP will say.

Professor Howe: 'Our report shows GPs are keen to have the value and skills of medical generalists more strongly supported across the modern NHS.'
Professor Howe: 'Our report shows GPs are keen to have the value and skills of medical generalists more strongly supported across the modern NHS.'

In a report to be published on Tuesday, the college calls for the 'essential' skills of generalists to be valued and retained so patients can continue to receive holistic care.

The report is the college's formal response to a review by the Independent Commission on Generalism report, published in October 2011.

It sets out the RCGP's vision for the future of medical generalism following a consultation with members and stakeholders.

The college argues that generalists remain the 'front door' to the NHS and must be more widely recognised. The report will recommend an 'expanded role' for generalists in frontline management of comorbidites in other NHS services.

The RCGP has also challenged other royal colleges to consider introducing generalists in their disciplines, such as having more GPs in hospitals.

The RCGP has outlined 10 priority areas that it intends to review to ensure GPs are 'equipped to meet the changing needs of their patients'. These include effective use of patient feedback, extended training for GPs, improved communication with specialists and nursing home care.

RCGP honorary secretary Professor Amanda Howe, who is leading the work, said: 'Generalists are professionals who are committed to the patient as a person. They retain responsibility for patients over time, deal with many issues and help patients to make judgements that are safe for them and the system.'

'Our report shows that GPs are very positive about seeing the basis of our discipline from a new perspective and are keen to have the value and skills of medical generalists more strongly supported across the modern NHS.'

In an editorial for the BJGP, Professor Howe said generalist skills must be valued: 'History can change things for the better or worse. It is essential that the essence of generalism is articulated, valued, and preserved.'

Writing in a foreword, RCGP chairwoman Professor Clare Gerada said the college's report made a 'compelling case' for the importance of GPs in the NHS. 'Generalists already help to ensure that the NHS remains one of the most cost-effective systems of care in the world. Their role in our health system needs fresh consideration, given the massive financial challenge we have ahead.'

The RCGP established the Independent Commission on Generalism in partnership with the Health Foundation in March 2011 to examine the contribution and role of General Practitioners and generalists in the healthcare system.

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