GPs must adapt to survive in changing NHS

GPs have been challenged to 'transform' their practices to ensure that primary care maintains quality and meets the changing needs of patients.

Dr Dixon: GPs must think about how patients view access to services
Dr Dixon: GPs must think about how patients view access to services

Dr Anna Dixon, director of policy at the King’s Fund, told the annual conference of the Society for Academic Primary Care that GPs should embrace technology to improve access, continuity and patient-centred care.

‘I think it is really important to look at what access is like for a patient – maybe just think for a moment about how you access other services – how do you book a hair appointment?

‘I would argue that delayed access, if it results in worse outcomes, is a clinical issue too.’

She said many practices had been too slow to embrace even ‘simple technology’ by improving email and telephone access to complement face-to-face consultations.

Dr Dixon also challenged the current partnership model of general practice but said she was not arguing for the ‘mass industrialisation’ of primary care.

‘It’s about a model that harnesses technology, in particular information and communication technology, to work virtually, that involves users in co-design and co-production, that operates at scale, joining together with other like-minded businesses in networks.’

Networking, as in GP federations, would maintain individuality and enable provision of a wider range of services.

She said: ‘General practice needs to move further than it has, towards a truly multi-professional team that involves a much wider range of professionals. It needs to embrace specialist knowledge and we need to find innovative ways of bringing specialist advice and knowledge into the consultation.’

Dr Dixon also called for different approaches to assessing quality, including peer observation and review and patient feedback.

‘Doing well on QOF I’m afraid is not enough – we need care that is delivered reliably to all patients. We need care that is not just a one-off, annual measure, but is repeated consistently throughout the year.’

Dr Dixon highlighted that an ageing population, a rising burden of co-morbidity and dementia, as well as the impact of lifestyle choices and obesity, all meant that the model of care needed to change.

She also cited the financial environment as one of the biggest challenges for the NHS: ‘I would argue that if general practice muddles along, adapts too slowly, there is a real risk that the quality of care will deteriorate.’

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