The announcement was quiet last week, but NHS England released the General Practice Forward View, a document that spells out the approach to saving and revolutionising General Practice.
What this strategy document outlines are a number of key objectives that the Royal College of GPs calls the “most significant GP deal since 1960s”.
With the headlines over the years talking about the escalating problem of funding, workload, and investment into general practice, the NHS has finally released its strategy to overcoming these problems over the next 5 years to 2020/21.
Whilst innovation and efficiency is all well and good, you cannot get over the fact that money is key to delivering great services and bringing change. So it is staggering, given the period of austerity the industry has seen since 2008, that the GPFV announces a 14% real term increase in funding by the year 2020/21 – that’s £2.4 billion extra per year.
The money will allow for the increase of 5,000 GPs, 5,000 additional staff in positions like mental health and pharmacists to be based in practices, additional funding for surgeries that are seeing significant increases in property costs, and investment in strategies and technology to deliver innovative methods of care.
The General Practice Forward View also outlays how the NHS will reduce workloads on practices by streamling payment methods, common tasks, and only performing CQC inspections up to a maximum of 5 years for good/outstanding practices.
Primary Care will also deliver healthcare in new methods by learning from the lessons experienced by the GP Access Fund and the vanguards.
As described in this five year strategy, Primary Care will utilise more telephone/video consultations, provide more choice to patients, free up clinician time to focus on patient activities, and move more significantly towards paperless methods.
What does this mean to the Digital Health industry?
Finally, the NHS has reached the ideal moment where the strategy for new ways of working, and increased investment overlap. With more healthcare organisations expecting to use new technologies, and funding being made available to buy these services, the NHS can take full advantage of what suppliers – big and small – have to offer.
There is a real interest in interoperability in the market place, whether that is between large clinical systems, or a wearable being able to file data into a patient’s medical, or personal, record. With the NHS telling suppliers, you *must* play nice together, or you will not win contracts, the future is brighter for a world where the NHS really knows who you are, what conditions and medications you have, and can provide a joined-up and efficient service.
But for General Practice, the easy part has been done: announcing a strategy on paper. The hard work now must begin on actually implementing this on the ground. There are likely to be further disputes and unhappiness as the process of change begins to evolve Primary Care into the service patients need for the future.
You can read the General Practice Forward View right here (http://www.rcgp.org.uk/policy/general-practice-forward-view.aspx).