by Dr Murray Ellender

The case for ‘smarter’ working in primary care

A recent Pulse article claims that even ‘desirable’ areas of England such as the South West are now facing an ‘impending crisis’, as two in five GPs are planning to quit within the next five years. Despite the fact that the study referred to in the article (published in BMJ Open), was carried out last year, before some of the Department of Health’s GP Forward View rescue measures had a chance to make any impact, lead researcher Professor John Campbell, professor of general practice and primary care at the University of Exeter Medical School, believes the findings show ‘an even bleaker outlook than expected for GP cover’.

The research reflects the views of over 2,000 GPs across the South West, with more than half (54%) reporting low morale and many saying that they were planning to leave the profession. Researchers concluded that this highlighted ‘the magnitude of the potential GP shortage crisis’ in the region and claimed it reflected ‘the current state of general practice in the UK’.

Whether this is true or not – my GP colleagues in the Hurley Group are all dedicated to their profession and derive great satisfaction from their jobs – there is no doubt that we need more GPs in this country, and that means not just training new GPs but retaining the ones we’ve already got.

“£2.4bn GP Forward View rescue package aims to address issues of morale and retention”

This is widely recognised by the Department of Health, and its £2.4bn GP Forward View rescue package aims to address issues of morale and retention, not just the recruitment and training of more GPs.

Work ‘smarter’ – not harder

Making GPs’ working lives easier, less stressful and more manageable, is one way to ensure that they enjoy their jobs. Working ‘smarter’ rather than just longer and harder, has long been recognised as the way forward for all sectors, not just healthcare. Technology is, of course, a key enabler here, and that is why the GP Forward View includes funding for the automation of certain services, including the introduction of online consultation.

We’re expecting the exact specification of the funding for online consultation to be released in the coming weeks, and we’re hopeful that, with our limited-time 60% discount on eConsult, the cost of implementing the system throughout a CCG could actually be covered by the available funding.

With our limited-time 60% discount on eConsult, the cost of implementing the system throughout a CCG could actually be covered by the available funding

Online consultation lets GPs manage their time more effectively, as well as giving patients improved access to the primary healthcare services they need. It’s a smarter solution to the issue of the ever-growing patient list and the need for better healthcare outcomes. And against a background of negativity and near-panic about the state of the NHS, it’s a very positive way of dealing with one of the biggest pressures on primary care. We’re currently working with our customers to help them apply for their share of the GP Forward View funding that could help them better support GPs and patients too. Click here for more details.