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ICB pilots will be ‘integral’ to future of NHS, says chief executive

ICB pilots will be ‘integral’ to future of NHS, says chief executive
By Beth Gault
17 June 2024

The pilots testing new ways of working within general practice will be ‘integral’ to the future of the NHS, according to NHS England’s chief executive.

Speaking at the NHS Confederation Expo in Manchester last week, Amanda Pritchard said that the pilots, which were announced in May, are now exploring the ‘big questions’ around how to make it easier for practices to meet urgent demands, continuity of care and preventative work.

The pilots are happening across seven ICBs and are testing more flexible staffing models, data and process automation within general practice.

Ms Pritchard said: ‘We need a modern vision for primary care. And two years ago, Claire Fuller gave us one: streamlined access to urgent care or advice, proactive personalised care for patients with long term needs and helping people to stay well for longer. It’s a vision we can all get behind.

‘I know there is no shortage of ambition among GPs and their teams. There are examples like that across the country. We want the ambition they show to be the norm. And it can be if we give primary care the tools they need. So, what happens in those pilots is going to be integral to the future of the NHS.’

The ICBs involved in the pilots are:

  • Humber and North Yorkshire
  • South Yorkshire
  • Gloucestershire
  • Somerset
  • North Central London
  • Lincolnshire
  • Suffolk and North East Essex

Last week, NHS England’s national director of primary care, Amanda Doyle, gave additional details about the pilots, stating that around 15 PCN test sites would be established to understand the gap between demand and capacity in primary care.

Also at the conference, chief executive of NHS Confederation, Matthew Taylor, said the full potential of primary care was starting to be appreciated, however there was a ‘tragic irony’ to this as many are facing an ‘existential crisis’.

‘Just as we are starting to appreciate the full potential of general practice and wider primary care in terms of data-driven population health management, holistic care and prevention, digital access and virtual care, at the same time in many places primary is facing an existential crisis,’ he said.

He called for ‘radical change’ of the health system, because ‘the platform is burning’.

‘This is the danger we see unfolding before us: a vicious cycle of higher sickness, lower growth and an NHS stuck in perpetual crisis management,’ he said.

He called for more collaboration in government to improve public health, a renewal of primary care and to better personalise care and empower patients.

‘Through all of this we can aspire to create over the next decade a radically improved model of health policy and healthcare,’ he said.

The National Association of Primary Care chair, Caroline Taylor, said it was ‘good to hear’ Mr Taylor’s call for radical change.

She said: ‘If we truly value proactive prevention and genuinely want to update this longstanding founding principle of the NHS so it is fit for today’s challenges then we need to act differently now.

‘This requires us to align our measures of success around what we value and to shift our investment focus to more effective proactive, preventative care and support designed by activated professionals from health & care in partnership with their communities.’

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