With the publication of Lord Darzi's review on the horizon, there is no doubt that the government is committed to seeing through major changes in primary care.
As the linchpin of the NHS, GPs must ensure that their voices are heard and that they have a say in shaping the future of healthcare in the UK.
To meet the challenges ahead, GPs need to build on the strengths of high-quality general practice.
NHS policy-makers must recognise that UK general practice and primary care as a whole is something deserving of value and respect.
General practice is the workhorse of the NHS. More than 90 per cent of healthcare problems are dealt with in primary care, with more than a million consultations taking place on an average working day.
A fact not quoted often enough is that it represents superb value for money. In fact, general practice is the most cost-effective part of the NHS.
GP consultations cost less than outpatient consultations, accident and emergency consultations and ambulance calls, and GP care for a whole year, including bank holidays, costs less than a single day's hospital admissions.
Further, UK general practice is widely acknowledged by healthcare professionals both at home and abroad as the best in the world.
User satisfaction is also very high. In the recent Healthcare Commission survey of general practice, 75 per cent of patients were completely satisfied that the main reason for visiting their local surgery had been dealt with, while only three per cent were dissatisfied.
Improvements are most definitely needed. It's a sad fact that there are some patients who are not receiving the services or the standard of service they deserve, but the RCGP would argue that the proposals in the Darzi review are not the answer.
If change in our healthcare system is to be successful, it must be clinician-led.
Strong GP leadership is needed at all levels, but most importantly at the local level, to drive change.
This change must include practices and other primary care services working together in federations, as espoused in the RCGP Roadmap.
One of the great levers for change will be the development of commissioning responsibilities by these federations.
Commissioning is an important tool to deliver improvements in both health and in community care.
Innovative commissioning by GPs, with specialist and most importantly patient involvement, will produce more effective and efficient care, focused on the needs of local people.
A focus on the health of the population will also produce better health promotion and prevention strategies, in conjunction with local authorities, schools and local employers.
To have a national health service that is fit for purpose in the 21st century, GPs must work to ensure that local services meet the needs of patients, and that all patients receive equally high standards of care.
| VALUING GENERAL PRACTICE|
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