The Peter Sowerby Foundation has announced funding of up to £2 million for organisations with new ideas with the potential to revolutionise primary care across the UK. In this article David Aspinall, chair of trustees at the foundation, describes how he hopes the fund will support the development of new approaches to work that will improve the patient experience and reduce the pressure on GPs
Primary care is the foundation of the NHS, managing 90% of all NHS patient contact. General practice provides over 300 million patient consultations each year, compared to 23 million A&E visits. Keeping up with an ever-rising demand, an aging population and skills’ shortages requires innovation; notwithstanding the government’s increasing investment in NHS funding, there is a need for new approaches, knowledge-sharing and fresh ideas.
Confidence in general practice remains high, with 84% of patients in the recent UK Ipsos MORI patient survey saying they had a ‘good’ overall experience. However, the pressure on GPs, many of whom work 12-hour days in clinic and make up to 60 patient contacts a day, is causing burn out and driving some doctors out of the profession. In order to improve the wellbeing of those working in general practice and, in turn, the impact they can have on primary patient care, we need to address increased administration and an escalation in the volume and complexity of patient demands.
The relationships that patients develop with their doctors, and with practice staff, are important. We recognise that we need to find new ways to relieve the burden on the individuals within primary care so that they can spend the time they need with patients. The NHS itself is dedicated to innovation and the NHS Innovation Accelerator initiative has already been instrumental in the development of a wireless sensor that better detects signs of sepsis in hospital patients, an app to help pregnant women monitor hypertension and another that directs patients with minor injuries to treatment units with the shortest queues – but there is more that we can do.
At the Peter Sowerby Foundation we believe that innovation could address some of the current challenges faced by the primary care community, including improving communication between patients and GPs, the training and resourcing of staff, and tackling administrative burdens.
It’s for this reason that we have launched our Health Breakthrough Fund which will provide up to £2m in funding for an idea (or ideas) that develop innovations which can transform primary care.
We are looking to support the push for innovation through the funding of a project in one (or more) of the following categories:
- primary medical care and research into technologies that improve the delivery of primary care;
- research undertaken by GPs;
- innovation and technology to improve primary care, particularly in rural communities; and
- terminal care and support for those suffering terminal illnesses, and research into improving delivery of care.
This will be the single biggest grant offered by the foundation since its inception in 2011. Projects must be highly innovative, and early stage, with the potential to make a transformative impact in improving primary care and/or ‘out of hospital’ provision for patients across the UK.
The initial call is open to organisations, or consortium bids, with a turnover of £2m plus. We welcome applications for, potentially, high-risk projects run by professionals with compelling track records in the health sector, grounded in considerable external evidence. Equally, we are seeking projects which provide a substantial social return on investment – projects which are high-impact, cost-effective and scalable and which can leverage substantial future resources.
At a time of continuing funding constraints within the NHS, we hope this significant grant will enable organisations with the potential to revolutionise the care of patients across the UK to move forward.