The biggest transformation to the way GPs work in more than a generation will be launched from today, Monday July 1.
It will see general practices, large and small, working to support each other while offering a wider range of specialist care services to patients from a range of health professionals.
GPs will recruit multi-disciplinary teams, including pharmacists, physiotherapists, paramedics, physician associates and social prescribing support workers, freeing up doctors to focus on the sickest patients.
Around 7,000 general practices – more than 99% – have come together across England to form almost 1,300 new Primary Care Networks (PCN). In Lancashire and South Cumbria, there are 217 General Practices with 41 networks.
While many of the networks are launched today, and it will take some weeks or months for patients to see much change, some PCNs are already up and running and providing new services.
Burnley East PCN has been featured in national press as an example of how networks are already rolling out programmes of work which are having a direct benefit to the populations they serve.
The network is made up of seven practices, including Yorkshire Street Practice, Prestige Medical Group (Oxford Road and Prestige Park), Burnley Wood Medical Practice, Briercliffe Surgery, Daneshouse Surgery, Thursby Surgery and Colne Road Surgery and together support around 50,000 people locally.
Practices working more collaboratively as a primary care network will enable the whole area to benefit from an initiative that was initially established by one of the surgeries – Burnley Wood Medical Centre – working in partnership with Lancashire County Council’s public health team to improve local health.
Working as a primary care network, Burnley East PCN were selected as one of five neighbourhood teams in Lancashire and South Cumbria to take part in an accelerated programme for population health management earlier this year.
Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria, the integrated care system for the area – which is a partnership of local councils, NHS, public sector, voluntary sector and community organisations – was one of only four areas in the country selected for the programme by NHS England and NHS Improvement, because it is recognised as leading the way in starting to improve outcomes, reduce inequalities and address the broad range of individual, social and economic factors affecting the health of local people.
The accelerated programme looked at changes in working practices to develop a culture of cross-organisational working as well as how data and intelligence can be better used by GPs and community services to help people live longer, healthier lives.
Dr Santosh Davis, a GP at Burnley Wood Medical Centre and East Lancashire Clinical Lead for Integrated Care Lead, said: “This was very much about establishing a grass roots movement which could make a difference to the people living in our community. It’s not about medicine, it is about using non-medical interventions to improve people’s lives.
“We have been able to make great progress as a single GP practice working with partners, but the impact will be even greater now we can work with other practices across the area as a primary care network.”
Dr Davis added “We are taking the concept of population health management to the people through community centres and churches and addressing frailty through community connectors: social prescribers who are employed by our Community Voluntary Organisation.
“More than 70 patients have already received help and support through the scheme and we hope for that to increase even more across the whole primary care network over the coming months.”
The networks will attract billions in extra investment to sustain general practice in the short term and improve access to family doctors, expanded services at local practices and longer appointments for patients who need them.
This milestone for primary medical and community care forms a major commitment of the NHS Long Term Plan. The additional funding from the five-year GP Contract agreed with the BMA at the end of January, includes £1.8billion to fund the recruitment of 20,000 more specialist health care staff to support general practices.
Up to 40% of GP appointments don’t need to be with a family doctor and the new recruits will free up GPs to spend more time with patients who need them most, offering longer appointments to those who need them, as well ensuring patients can get a wide range of expert specialist services at their local practice.
Patients will also have a range of options when it comes to getting appointments at their practice, including the introduction of digital appointments, which will build on the progress which saw evening and weekend appointments made available across the country at the end of last year, with an estimated nine million appointments a year now available at more convenient times.
It means GP practices will be able to drive further action on killer conditions such as cancer and heart disease as well as doing more to tackle obesity, diabetes and mental ill health, and support older people at home and in care homes.
The NHS Long Term Plan will see funding for primary medical and community care increase as a share of the NHS budget for the first time in the health service’s 70-year history, with an extra £4.5 billion invested by 2023.
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Director of Public Health for Lancashire said, “We are looking forward to working ever more closely with our GPs and primary care networks at a neighbourhood level. This gives us a tremendous opportunity to improve health and wellbeing of our residents.”