General practice is considered by many, if not most, to be the heart of the English healthcare system. We know that our patients trust us, and that they are pleased with the services that we are uniquely able to provide. This report, however, shows that there is still work to be done to provide consistently excellent generalist care across the board.
The report, quite rightly, recognises that a lot of excellent work is already taking place across the country. GPs and their teams are working hard to deliver high quality care, across a wide range of circumstances and we should take pride in the achievements of our profession. This report highlights the fact that there is always room for improvement, and presents an opportunity for us to raise the bar even higher.
General practice isn't easy, and I often argue that it is the hardest of all medical specialties; we focus on the health needs of patients presenting with undifferentiated symptoms that, in isolation, can have any number of causes. Nevertheless I agree with the central thrust of the report in that we must minimise unintended variation in quality, and ensure that patients, irrespective of where they live, or which clinician in a practice they might see, receive the very best quality of care in terms of diagnosis, prescribing and referral where appropriate.
Now, in light of the health reforms and GP-led commissioning, we have yet more challenges to face.
Of course, GPs need to constantly hone their skills, and we also need to understand the complex issues that cause wide variation in prescribing, referral patterns and rates of diagnosis.
But GPs also need support: learning needs for doctors must be addressed, and we need access to appropriate diagnostic aids, including scans and X-rays, if we are to offer what the report calls 'a new deal for patients'.
We are doing a good job, but we must always strive to improve our services.
- Dr Clare Gerada is a London GP and this is the second of her monthly series of columns. Email her at GPcolumnists@haymarket.com