Speaking at the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) conference in Birmingham, Mr Hancock said he has seen general practice ‘blossom’ under the primary care home model - which encourages practices to form collaborative ‘networks’ within their communities.
‘Primary care is renowned for its ability to innovate. And I support this innovation. This should include practice structure too,’ Mr Hancock said.
He added: 'I am attracted to a model that benefits primary care staff and patients. I have seen primary care practices that have blossomed under the primary care home model.' He pointed to the Granta primary care home in Cambridgeshire, which is creating a partnership with Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) with the aim of radically reducing emergency bed days for their patients by at least 20%.
Responding to a question from a GP audience member, the health secretary said: 'I love the primary care home model. I think it’s absolutely fantastic.
‘I’ve seen some of the results in a number of different settings [and] I think that there’s a huge future for it. We’ve got to make sure that we get the financial architecture right so it can be supported and it’s a big part of our discussions on the long-term plan.’
He told the audience he felt ‘lucky’ to have been appointed as health secretary at a time ‘when there is a yearning for some reform’, adding ‘we’ve got to put in the structural and financial architecture behind it to make sure that it is achieved’.
There are currently 216 primary care home sites across England, serving approximately nine million people.
Also speaking at the conference, NAPC chief executive John Pope said: ‘We continue to be inspired by the way sites have embraced the model’ adding that it had led to ‘improvements in staff satisfaction, recruitment and retention, improved patient satisfaction and, in some areas, an impact on secondary care reducing emergency admissions and A&E attendances’.
However, despite his enthusiasm for primary care homes, Mr Hancock insisted that he was ‘not wedded to any one model’ and suggested practices should consider whether to ‘set themselves up as John Lewis Partnership-style mutuals’ whereby all staff become partners.
Citing a ‘landscape littered with pilots’ Mr Hancock called for successful models to be ‘scaled up’, concluding: ‘Part of my task is to find the pilots that have worked best - find the examples that are working best for patients - and then drive that across the system.’