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Accelerate progress by supporting primary care


30 June 2015

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Primary care wants to help with service redesign, but needs support programmes at a time of intense pressure, said Dr Robert Varnham, head of general practice development at NHS England this morning.

Primary care wants to help with service redesign, but needs support programmes at a time of intense pressure, said Dr Robert Varnham, head of general practice development at NHS England this morning.

Speaking at the Commissioning Live event in Birmingham, he said that if CCGs want people to be redesigning services the good news is that general practice is "really up for it" despite the amazing pressure they are currently under, but commissioners need to change the way they ask GPs to help and how they support them.

Instead of saying to general practice "here's an incentive, get on with it," Varnham said that, to commission for the future, commissioners must ask, "Can you be accountable for reducing these specific outcomes, and we'll give you the money and resouces to make that happen".

"Think about people who are so busy chopping down a tree that they don't have time to sharpen their axe, which is where general practice is right now. There are things that would make a massive difference to your providers, not just to help with the pressure, but also to help with the opportunity and to do something transformative to help primary care fulfill its potential," he said.

CCG's need to build their leadership cohort, build the capabilities for business intelligence and quality improvement. This can be done by providing a bit of service redesign support to help people measure things then make sense of what they're measuring, bearing in mind long-term goals, he said. 

"General practice isn't dead it's really up for this, but you can't expect people to do it in their 'spare time', because people who don't get home until 8 or 9 at night don't have any spare time. If you want them to do this work, pay for it. We do rather expect people to make things happen just by working faster, or working harder, or staying later, and general practice has done a lot of that over the last 15 years," he said.

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