While it is something that comes with the day job, it should never be taken for granted - as demonstrated by our latest RCGP policy paper Promoting continuity of care in general practice.
Written by Dr Alison Hill and Professor George Freeman, it calls on policy makers, managers and commissioners to consider their everyday practice, and makes 30 recommendations to improve the way that we provide joined-up care.
The days of the traditional Dr Finlay family doctor may be over but the management of continuity has never been more important. Clinicians are facing the dual challenge of an increasingly ageing population presenting with increasingly complex and multiple comorbidities. Management of long-term and chronic conditions depends on joined-up care that GPs, with support from our specialist colleagues, are well placed to provide.
The report outlines the evidence of the cost-effectiveness of general practice, the link between access and continuity of care, and ways to help patients achieve effective 'therapeutic' relationships. GPs already know that high-quality general practice is the most cost-effective means of providing healthcare to patients, and this new paper reiterates the overlooked fact that one day of GP care is equivalent in cost to one tenth of a day in hospital.
While it was commissioned before the White Paper and subsequent Health and Social Care Bill, its publication could not be more timely and I would urge our politicians to take heed of its important messages.
Patients rightly expect the best possible quality of care from their health service, and continuity of care is one of the most valuable tools in a GP's arsenal to provide this care. GPs understand that choice is important to their patients, and they understand their responsibility in helping patients to make the choices that are best for them in the long term.
We all have a responsibility to work together to ensure that the patient experience is the best it can be, and to ensure that the GP-patient relationship remains sacrosanct.
- Dr Clare Gerada is a GP in south London. Email her at GPcolumnists@haymarket.com