NHS England should make it mandatory for all ICSs to develop a primary care plan, an independent review of the GP partnership model has recommended.
The review recognised that primary and community care will play a much bigger role in the way future health services are delivered and said ICSs should create a plan to support this change, setting out the new vision for primary care ‘with general practice at its core’.
It said the primary care plans – which were also outlined in the 2019/20 Operational Planning and Contracting Guidance, published by NHS England last week – should be developed in partnership with Local Medical Committees and must demonstrate how primary and community care staff have been involved in its creation.
In return, primary care must ‘step up to the plate’ and play its part in the wider system by working with others to keep people out of hospital where possible, the report added.
The review was commissioned by the then health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt in 2018 and headed by independent chair Dr Nigel Watson, GP and chief executive of Wessex Local Medical Committees.
‘Status of primary care’
The review looked at the challenges facing GP partnerships, how the existing model is working, and what changes can be made to aid the transformation of general practice.
It made a series of recommendations that support the overarching aim of giving general practice a ‘strong, consistent and fully representative voice’ in the wider health system, after finding that many GPs still feel they do not have a ‘meaningful seat at the table’.
These included general practice being recognised as a speciality by the government, changes to the way the General Medical Council registers doctors, and a request for the recommendations of a previous report by Professor Val Wass – on supporting medical students towards future careers in general practice – to be implemented as soon as possible.
The review also recommended that additional support, clear guidance and resources are provided to help neighbouring GP practices develop their primary care networks, a model that will now be rolled out across the country under the NHS long term plan.
‘Model under threat’
Commenting on the report BMA GP committee Dr Richard Vautrey said many GPs were ‘at best sceptical’ about the introduction of ICSs and were concerned that these new institutions posed a threat to the GP partnership model.
He added: ‘It is therefore absolutely imperative that frontline GPs, via their Local Medical Committees who fully understand the local needs of both practitioners and patients, get a seat at the table in the development of any plans that affect primary care.
“GPs and their teams, embedded within the community, are the ones who see patients day in day out and are best placed to advise on how local systems should be run to benefit all.”
Dr Nigel Watson, chair of the independent review, said it was clear that there remains ‘huge potential’ in general practice for delivering high quality community-based care.
He added: ‘To unleash this potential, general practice needs to see a secure future that is associated with an expanded workforce, less personal financial risk and the working day being more manageable.
‘The recommendations today, I hope, will not only be accepted by government and supported by the profession, but make a real difference with more resources going to the delivery of care on the frontline.’