GPs must protect traditional general practice as politicians seek reform

GPs must retain the traditional strengths of general practice while moulding the inevitable change that will happen in primary care, according to the chief executive of Wessex LMCs.

Dr Nigel Watson: protect traditional general practice (Photo: JH Lancy)
Dr Nigel Watson: protect traditional general practice (Photo: JH Lancy)

Dr Nigel Watson told the National Association of Primary Care's Best Practice conference in Birmingham that the political focus across all parties was now placed firmly on primary care.

He warned that GPs must fight to ensure that continuity of care, patient advocacy, and patients’ ownership of their GP, continue as new models of primary and intermediate are developed.

It would require engagement from the profession, and GPs need to ‘regain control’ of developing models of care, he said.

‘We could just oppose everything, or take a slightly different approach and try to align the government agenda with what we want as a profession,’ he said.

GPs must lead changes

‘Huge change is going to happen and do we want to lead that, or sit back and face the consequences?’

Integrated care is talked about a lot, but delivered badly, he said. And the focus of the new models of care must not be solely about cutting hospital admissions.

Dr Watson estimated that he currently spent 20% of his time in practice dealing with the barriers between social, primary and hospital care.

‘CCGs should empower GPs to take leadership of genuinely integrated multi-disciplinary teams,’ he said. ‘These would feature a common health record, and joint care planning.’

‘My integrated team would have GPs, community nurses, a community matron, a geriatrician, an older persons mental health specialist, and a social worker.’

To develop the new models of care, practices will have to work at scale, Dr Watson told the conference, with populations of between 30,000 and 50,000 patients.

Mergers and federations

This may be achieved by practice mergers or federations. GP practices would also have to work smarter, possibly sharing back office functions, and ensuring that all inspections are carried out at one time, for instance.

‘All this can be delivered but we need more resources, more people, some of whom will come from hospitals, leadership, and a positive culture about general practice,’ Dr Watson said.

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