The first GP to be awarded a NICE fellowship says he will look to improve the quality of care for headache by establishing a network of clinical leads across England.
Exeter GP Dr David Kernick, who is writing a series of articles about headache for GP, has been awarded one of 10 fellowships by NICE as part of its Fellows and Scholars Programme, launched last week.
Newly-appointed NICE fellows will use their experience and reputation to represent the institute at a local level to improve integration with frontline care. They will be involved in activities such as clinical audit and policy development.
Dr Kernick is the RCGP headache lead and chair of the primary care group of the International Headache Society. As a fellow he will build on existing RCGP work to reduce the burden of headache among the general population.
Speaking to GP, Dr Kernick explains that he will try to raise the profile of headache to improve diagnosis and management.
He believes the symptom often takes a back seat to the pursuit of QOF targets and more critical conditions. Only 30 per cent of adult headache complaints in the UK are formally diagnosed, he says.
But Dr Kernick believes correct management of headache on a national level is important because it affects a large proportion of the population. 'There is below average management at the moment. It's not on the list of priorities,' he says.
Three key areas
Continuing the RCGP's work in this area, Dr Kernick says he will focus on three key areas. He will look to improve the education and guidance available to GPs; target headache in occupational settings; and improve the identification and management of headache in schools.
Dr Kernick has helped publish information on GP referrals of patients with headache suspected of suffering from more serious conditions, such as tumours.
Further guidance is in the pipeline and will help to influence NICE's national advice for England.
He will help to produce fact sheets and video dialogues to help GPs with diagnosis and referrals of headache. 'There's much work to be done,' Dr Kernick admits.
The fellowship programme is the culmination of recommendations that were made by Lord Darzi in his 2008 report High Quality Care for All to involve NICE in the local clinical community.
The unpaid fellowship lasts for three years, during which time fellows will be required to spend at least one day per month on related activities.
Fellows will aim to improve quality of care and improve cost-effectiveness of practice, and their efforts will influence local healthcare and feedback to help formulate national policy.
Ten new fellows will be appointed each year from 2010, reaching a total of 30 active fellows by 2013. NICE has also awarded 10 scholarships to specialist registrars and other qualified health professionals, who will undertake a variety of projects in the 12 months that they are in post.
Professor Peter Littlejohns, England's director of clinical and public health at NICE, has said that the fellowships and scholarships 'will provide them with opportunities to develop further in their own careers and improve the quality of healthcare in their local areas'.
The initiative aims to allow NICE to 'engage closely with the NHS and foster a growing network of individuals who are committed to promoting our core values'.