A new review performed by Dr Claire Fuller provides recommendations on optimising primary care access in the UK.
NHS England revealed that new Integrated Care Systems would go live on 1 July this year, commissioning a review by Dr Fuller, a practising GP, to identify how the newly formed systems and primary care can work together to enhance patient access and overall care.
Dr Claire Fuller’s review noted a range of recommendations, highlighting that neighbourhood teams should be paramount to improving patient access to primary care services in the UK. The teams should help amalgamate general practice with other parts of the care system and offer regular support to those who need it most, such as the elderly and people with long-term conditions.
Integrated Care Systems
The NHS Long Term Plan revealed that Integrated Care Systems would be essential for its successful implementation, bringing local organisations together to optimise care and improve population health.
Integrated Care Systems will combine hospital, community and mental health trusts, GPs and other primary care services with local authorities, care providers, and other organisations, including the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sectors, to boost patient access, experience, and outcomes. The aim is to improve the health of all residents, deliver better support to people living with multiple and long-term conditions, and mitigate variation in care.
Recommendations for primary care access
For her review, Dr Fuller collaborated with more than 1,000 people in the health sector. She recommends that the following steps need to be implemented to develop more robust primary care services:
- Better access to urgent primary care services for patients – ensuring people who need it can be assessed on the same day and offering more choices to those who do not regularly use health services.
- Improved support to patients who need ongoing care by combining primary care and community teams and ensuring they see the same clinicians regularly.
- Help to make people live well for longer by working with local government and the voluntary sector to seek out people who need more support before their health problems escalate.
Amanda Pritchard, the NHS chief executive who commissioned the review, commented: “General practice is the bedrock of the NHS, acting as the front door to healthcare with GPs and other primary care professionals providing treatment, advice, and support to more than one million patients every day.
“I have heard how much people value access to these vital services, which is why I commissioned this stocktake to ensure that as we join up services through Integrated Care Systems, we make it as convenient as possible for everyone to get the right care for their needs at the right time.
“I am grateful to Claire Fuller for completing this important work; I welcome the recommendations and look forward to working with colleagues across the NHS to implement them”.
Dr Fuller concluded: “As a GP, I know only too well the importance of supporting people – patients who come to my surgery might present with a medical condition, but so often this is exacerbated by other factors; financial concerns, housing issues or poor air quality.
“Newly formed Integrated neighbourhood teams, which should evolve from Primary Care Networks, are perfectly placed to bring together the right partners to tackle people’s overall health and wellbeing needs.
“I am proud that this review has the commitment from everyone working on the ground – all 42 Integrated Care System leaders who are committed to developing local health systems which meet the unique needs of their different populations – it is now for national organisations to offer them further support around workforce, data and estates”.