New inquiry: the future of general practice

The Health and Social Care Committee has launched a new inquiry to investigate the future of NHS general practice, examining the key challenges facing general practice over the next five years as well as the current and ongoing barriers to access to general practice.

General practice has witnessed a number of changes in recent years with the development of Primary Care Networks and during the Covid-19 pandemic the way in which patients interact with their local practice has changed.

The new inquiry will examine a number of key areas:

  • What can be done to reduce bureaucracy and burnout, and improve morale, in general practice?
  • How can the current model of general practice be improved to make it more sustainable in the long term? In particular:
    • Whether the traditional partnership model in general practice is sustainable given recruitment challenges, the prioritisation of integrated care and the shift towards salaried GP posts?

    • Whether the current contracting and payment systems in general practice encourage proactive, personalised, coordinated and integrated care? 

    • Has the development of Primary Care Networks improved the delivery of proactive, personalised, coordinated and integrated care and reduced the administrative burden on GPs?

    • To what extent has general practice been able to work in effective partnerships with other professions within primary care and beyond to free more GP time for patient care?

The Committee is keen to hear from a range of stakeholders by 14 December 2021. You can read the call for evidence before submitting here.

Commenting on the launch of the inquiry, primary care specialist Rob Day said:

“The emergence of this inquiry is of little surprise given the pressures seen by those working within general practice who, against a backdrop of a decreasing number of GP partners, are being asked to deliver more as part of wider drive towards an integrated health and care system in England.

Whilst it is clearly an issue with multiple layers, as a lawyer working within this space it is clear that the current contractual and regulatory regime applicable to those working within general practice is doing little to support their sustainability and development.

One obvious example is the lack of flexibility that exists for providers when it comes to determining the business model through which they operate their businesses.

Despite being asked to do more and take greater risk (whether through the employment of more staff or otherwise) providers working within general practice still find themselves both limited in the legal structures they can adopt when it comes to holding their core clinical contracts (for instance, no LLP can hold a GMS or PMS contract) and facing some resistance at commissioner level when it comes to approving change.

It is hoped that this may prove a catalyst to address some of the rigidity in the contractual and regulatory regime so that we can continue to harness the huge benefits that general practice has in delivering proactive care in the community.”

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