“A little less conversation, a little more action, please” (Elvis Presley, 1968)
“If anyone had said ten years ago: ‘Here’s what the NHS should do now; cut the share of funding to primary care and grow the number of hospital specialists three times faster than GPs’ they would have been laughed out of court. But that is exactly what has happened,” according to Simon Stevens in his Introduction to GP Forward View.
It is now three years since the GP Forward View was announced, and as a front-line GP, it is hard to see a significant change. We are still in the remarkable situation that there are more hospital consultants locally than GPs.
Many reports have stressed the importance of primary care, community services, and health promotion and prevention strategies. There is a recognition locally that resources need to shift and the ambition to do this. However, evidence for any significant change is thin on the ground.
Investment in new hospital buildings has not been matched by investment in primary care. We are lucky to have the Grove, Two Rivers, planned work on the Tooks` Bakery site and Newmarket Hospital but this is dwarfed by investment in the acute sector.
Some sensible initiatives just do not transfer to primary care. For example, West Suffolk Hospital has been given a significant grant to digitise all its records. If that was also provided to primary care, it would free up significant amounts of space.
Investment in primary care continues to come from ‘pots of money’ through various complicated-to-bid-for funding streams. What is needed is consistent, long-term funding to allow us to employ permanent staff and invest with some certainty.
How can we move things forward? I think there are three immediate priorities for us:
- Engage with the Integrated Neighbourhood Teams (INTs) as this is the way integrated joined-up services will be achieved locally.
- Make use of the strength of the primary care groupings DHG, IPC, SPC, C&C and the Fed to provide a unified voice. The current multiple mixed messages from primary care mean it’s easy for our partners in the two Suffolk alliances not to prioritise our needs.
- Be clear that we understand working with our partners in the health and care system means give and take from each of us. Our priority is support to help us manage our workload, but in return we need to change some aspects of the way we work.
Your Federation is a key player in the local system resulting from our management of community services and in the future Out of Hours. We will continue to press the case for a shift in resources.
Paul Driscoll, Chair and Medical Director
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