Writing in a bulletin for GPs, former GP and NHS England deputy medical director Dr Mike Bewick said that although ‘some of your practices are making good progress on targeting resources to bring about improvements for people with long-term conditions, many are not’.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that GPs will be handed greater responsibility for managing the care of patients with long-term conditions from 2015, after taking 24-hour responsibility for vulnerable elderly patients from April 2014.
Improving continuity of care and ‘ensuring general practice provides a wider range of services closer to people’s homes’ needs to be the ‘number one’ priority, he said.
'Primary care has the potential to transform and improve the lives of the 15m people in England who currently live with one or more long-term condition,’ he said.
‘We know that better patient education, multidisciplinary teams and patient-centred care all help reduce complications and keep people well for longer. For example, multidisciplinary teams with foot care specialists for patients with diabetes have proven to reduce amputation rates by up to 85%.
‘Sound management of long-term conditions is cost effective and best for patients; where patients are empowered to work with clinicians to achieve a safe level of self-care even in the most complex conditions.’
However, Dr Bewick said it was 'not just down to GPs' to tackle the problem. Health and wellbeing boards will be ‘critical to success and we must all work together as one system to tackle problems where they surface’.
‘The key will be to apply existing best practice and latest evidence, then roll it out on an industrial scale for the benefit of every patient in every part of the country,’ he said.
NHS England is holding a wide-ranging consultation on general practice, Improving general practice – a call to action, which explores how general practice can transform in response to ‘increasingly unsustainable pressures’. It closes on 10 November.
Last month, NHS England's head of primary care commissioning, Dr David Geddes, a GP in Yorkshire said that the current model of primary care is not fit to meet the demands of the modern NHS and practices must open seven days a week.