Professor Clare Gerada: Happy birthday NHS - more GPs please

The RCGP's landmark vision for the future of general practice, The 2022 GP, gives us a series of goals to work towards and an action plan for how to meet them, to ensure the best possible care for our patients while maintaining a sustainable NHS.

Our vision puts patients right at the heart of general practice, looking at ways we can be better GPs and offer more and different services to our patients - and at the same time, ease some of the unworkable pressures we currently face.

The important thing is that our patients trust us and we need to retain their trust as we deal with these pressures and depleting NHS resources.

As our population ages and patients routinely present with complex, multiple morbidities, whole-person care is becoming ever more vital, as opposed to treating individual conditions.

Continuity of care and integration of primary, secondary and social care are also essential.

The 10-minute consultation is out of date. We need to be able to offer more flexible consultations to meet patients' needs. We need to start working in federations of practices and to act as guides for patients as they navigate around the health service.

GPs also need to start making more use of IT. Telephone, the internet, email, text message and even social media will increase GPs' capacity to see more patients at more flexible times. The future will also see greater emphasis on self-care.

The challenges are daunting, especially when our workloads are ballooning. But patients and the NHS need GPs more than ever.

It is essential that the government responds to our call for more spending in general practice and for more GPs. We provide the most cost-effective care in the NHS but it is unsustainable for us to keep making 90% of all patient contacts for only 9% of the budget.

A healthy NHS depends on healthy general practice and if we buckle, the impact on the rest of the health service and our patients will be disastrous.

The college has outlined a bright future for general practice and a route map for how to get there. We now need the funding, resources and support to make it happen and to ensure the NHS is still treating patients in another 65 years.

  • Professor Gerada is a GP in London.

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