Outgoing RCGP chairwoman tells Labour general practice must change

Outgoing RCGP chairwoman Professor Clare Gerada has told the Labour party conference that general practice 'has to change'.

Prof Gerada: 'We need to look at the structural issues including how we are contracted as independent contractors.'
Prof Gerada: 'We need to look at the structural issues including how we are contracted as independent contractors.'

Speaking alongside the shadow health secretary at a fringe event in Brighton, Professor Gerada called on Andy Burnham to commit to abolishing foundation trusts, end the obsession with hospitals and refocus on primary care.

Mr Burnham said he wanted to ‘empower’ GPs to be able to prescribe access to social care and services as part of a ‘whole-person’ integrated health and social care service.

An integrated service and single budget, he said, would shift incentives away from hospital treatment to community care.

In his main address to conference on Wednesday Mr Burnham will announce free social care for anyone on the end-of-life pathway as part of his move towards integration.

Professor Gerada, who takes up a new role as clinical chairwoman for primary care transformation in London with NHS England, in November, told Labour party delegates: ‘I think general practice needs to change, because I think we need to look at some of the structural issues around general practice including how we are contracted as independent contractors so that … we can start to release some funds and pool them, so the tax pound is used in one place for the patient rather than spread across.’

Addressing Mr Burnham’s plans to reorganise hospitals to take overall control of integrated care, Professor Gerada said she did not think ‘we can trust hospitals to do that’.

‘I think we are fixated that the NHS starts and ends with hospitals’, she said, and called for integrated care to be lead by primary and community care with local councils, and ‘taken away from hospitals’.

While foundation trusts and general practice exist as independent organisation, she said,  ‘we will continue as silos’.

She repeated her proposals for GP-led integrated single provider organisations.

But Mr Burnham said hospitals must become ‘something fundamentally different’ that begin in the home, but it it was necessary to ‘rethink generalist care’.

Leicestershire GP and Labour county councillor, Dr Terri Eynon, told GP Mr Burnham should listen more to GPs.

She said Professor Gerada had spotted that Labour’s policy pronouncements were overlooking general practice.

‘What I want to say to Andy Burnham’, she said, ‘is talk to Clare; talk to people like me who have being trying to do integration at the coal face’ whose voices felt ‘very weak compared to the chief executives of foundation trusts’.

Dr Eynon called for Labour’s policy team to look closely at work being done on proactive care models and work to ‘undo the barriers’ to person-centred care.

The former health secretary praised Professor Gerada’s ‘outstanding’ work leading the RCGP for the past three years.

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