Viewpoint: How personalised care can help GP trainees lead change

GP trainee Dr Liam Loftus explains how personalised care can make a difference to patient care and why junior doctors are key to driving forward this approach to medicine.

Dr Liam Loftus
Dr Liam Loftus

As a GP trainee, I’m always looking for ways to improve my practice and to deliver better health outcomes and experiences for my patients. I developed my passion for personalised care when, in my own clinical practice, I saw first-hand how powerful this approach can be in empowering patients to reach the goals that mean the most to them. 

I’m a staunch supporter of a personalised care approach because of how it enables patients to express their values, circumstances and aspirations for their healthcare, and work with clinicians to reach the best decision for them. 

What is personalised care?

Personalised care gives people the same choice and control over their mental and physical health that they have come to expect in every aspect of their lives. It switches the focus and narrative from ‘what’s the matter with you?’ to ‘what matters to you?’. 

As doctors, we can choose to have patient conversations that address what is important to the individual, as well as what issues they are facing. 

Research shows that people’s circumstances and preferences really do matter in the decision making and delivery of their individual health and care. 

New data from the Personalised Care Institute (PCI) - based on 4,410 patient appointments - showed that when patients receive personalised care, they are more likely to understand the advice given, to feel confident and motivated to follow it, and to feel listened to and valued by their clinician. It is no wonder that those factors lead to better medical adherence and improved health outcomes, which is why personalised care is rightly a key part of the NHS Long Term Plan. 

Personalised care in general practice

GPs are often the first point of contact for anyone with a physical or mental health problem. This makes personalised care especially important to our profession. 

Though we have many of the skills required to do this already, a little additional training can really empower us to not only do this confidently and effectively, but also to lead our teams in adopting this approach too.

I was therefore delighted to work with the PCI to co-author their new ‘Leading Personalised Care as a Junior Doctor’ module. The quality-assured training course takes just 30 minutes to complete, and provides an important introduction to personalised care and the role that junior doctors have in leading its adoption.

This is the first bespoke personalised care e-learning programme of its kind for junior doctors. Underpinned by the standards set in the PCI’s curriculum, the module also details how a personalised care approach will help tackle the current challenges in healthcare – such as health inequalities, and the impact of COVID-19. 

Like all of the PCI’s peer-reviewed courses, the module gives learners the opportunity to reflect on their contribution and commitment to personalised care. It also shares excellent examples of how to lead change.

How personalised care can make a difference

I’ve seen how putting the learning that’s available in this module into practice can really have a positive impact upon whole communities. My colleagues and I recently embarked on a project which aimed to improve how we invite people with severe mental illness (SMI) to their annual physical health check. 

Wanting to lead for personalised care, my suggestion was to invite people with SMI into the conversation, and ask them, ‘when it comes to how we communicate, what matters most to you?’ 

This not only led to us co-producing communication resources tailored specifically to people with SMI, but it also helped to address power imbalances, and harness the expertise of this community. This simple intervention not only furthered my passion for personalised care, but also demonstrated how, as junior doctors, we can truly drive the adoption of this approach amongst our teams.

Leadership opportunity for junior doctors

The long-term success of personalised care depends on strong leadership, and I believe that as junior doctors, we’re incredibly well placed to inspire and support our colleagues and primary care teams to ensure it becomes a daily reality. 

This module is a quick and efficient way for you to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge to do just that, and to truly lead for personalised care. I would therefore urge all junior doctors and qualified GPs to visit the Personalised Care Institute website, register and embark on their personalised care training journey. This topic is only going to become more important.

  • Dr Loftus is a GP trainee in Cambridge and clinical fellow – primary care at NHS England 

Personalised Care Institute

The PCI is the organisation responsible for delivering quality-assured training in personalised care to the health and care workforce. It has a range of other bite-sized quality-assured modules for health and care professionals. For more information and to register for free, visit https://www.personalisedcareinstitute.org.uk/

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