NHS England unveils next steps towards future of primary care

NHS England has set out the next stage of its reforms from the General Practice Forward View. 

The organisation points out that key primary care achievements so far include:

  • Seventeen million people now able to access GP appointments at evenings and weekends.
  • Increased investment in general practice in 2016/17 – with estimated out-turn of at least an additional £500m more than 2015/16 – and an additional £1bn more than 2014/15. Real terms funding is also up eight per cent over the past three years since NHS England was established;
  • Four hundred and ninety one clinical pharmacists working in and across 658 practices, with co-funding from NHS England;
  • Significant additional investment in GP premises and technology, with over 800 new schemes identified during 2016-2019;
  • Numbers entering GP training are up 10% since 2015.
  • Figures show over 1200 practices have already benefited from £21m of resilience and support funding.

It admits that there is still work to do to ensure that primary care, and general practice in particular, remain at the heart of NHS services.

A major part of reform will be the roll out of place-based local care networks that will bring together communities of GPs, physicians, nurses, pharmacists, therapists and social care workers to deliver a single health and care system for neighbourhoods of typically 30,000-50,000.

For clinicians and staff it will mean working together more closely and getting to know their populations better so they can provide the right care in the right place by the right professional at the right time.  Making the most of the full primary care team’s skills will help free up GPs so that they are better able to help patients with complex or multiple long-term conditions.

For patients it will mean high quality care from a familiar team of healthcare professionals that they know and trust.

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It’s suggested that key improvements to come will include:

  • By March 2018, at least 40%, of the country will benefit from extended access to GP appointments at evenings and weekends but with an aim of 50%. By March 2019 this will extend to 100% of the country.
  • Increase pharmacists in general practice to over 900 by March 2018 and over 1300 by March 2019.
  • 800 mental health therapists in general practice by March 2018 rising to over 1500 by March 2019.
  • 800 infrastructure projects are identified for Estates and Technology Transformation Fund investment in the coming years.

Arvind Madan, GP and NHS England Director of Primary Care, said: “If we look back to where general practice was a year ago, I think we have made significant progress but the journey is far from over. The measures we are setting out today will continue to build momentum behind the wider transformation of primary care and help us deliver the high quality, flexible health service that is needed in the face of ever-rising patient demand.”