The Primary Care Workforce Commission, established by Health Education England, have published a report looking at the future of primary care.
The commission aimed to identify solutions that would meet the present and future needs of the NHS and address the increasing pressures primary care is facing, including:
- An increasing population
- A rapidly ageing population
- Rising demand for care with increasing numbers of primary care visits each year
- Increasing numbers of complex patients with multiple long-term conditions
- A need for increased time with patients to support self-management and to share decision making
The commission conducted site visits, spoke to national and local organisations, and carried out an international literature to see what could be learnt.
The future of primary care – creating teams for tomorrow report sets out a vision for primary care where practices will have a stronger population focus and an expanded workforce with new roles, such as physician associates. When needed, healthcare professionals will be able to spend more time with their patients to discuss and plan their care.
They will also be able to communicate with patients and with other health professionals by phone, email, electronic messaging and video-conference. 86 per cent of GPs in Denmark and 46 per cent in the Netherlands use email regularly to communicate with patients. The report recommends that email correspondence between patients and their primary care clinicians should be piloted prior to becoming a routine part of NHS care.
The report cites the example of the Hurley Group, an NHS organisation that runs a number of practices and GP walk-in centres across London. They provide ‘Web-GP’ that offers: a symptom checker; self-help guides and videos about common conditions; signposting to alternate sources of care such as local pharmacies; 24/7 phone advice within one hour via 111; and e-consultations in which people can submit questions to their GP for response within one working day
The report sees a future where individual general practices and community pharmacies will work more closely together through networks and federations in order to provide a wider range of services, and IT systems will become joined up across providers of primary care.
The report recommends that wider use should be made of community pharmacists and pharmacy support staff in managing minor illness and advising people about optimising their medicines.
Primary and community care staff will also work more closely with secondary care and social services.
The report argues that as people develop more complex long-term conditions, it will become more important for patients to see a clinician whom they know so that their preferences can be taken into account, and increased appointment lengths would give opportunity for patient education that supports improved use of medication and more effective self-care.
You can access the full report here.