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The GP Forward View: One Year On

It’s been 12 months since the full details of the GP Forward View were unveiled, so we’ve decided to mark that anniversary by taking a look at what progress the initiative has made so far.

We examined some of the key themes of the GPFV in 2016 and, one year on, we’ve taken the opportunity to revisit them to see how much (or little) things have changed in the meantime.

Recruiting More GPs

One of the most striking aspects of the GPFV was the plan to recruit 5,000 more GPs by 2020, so how are the numbers looking? The answer is… not brilliant.

In fact, it’s been reported that the number of GPs in England is actually dropping, with 34,495 full-time equivalents employed in September 2016 compared to 34,592 a year earlier. This is most likely a result of GPs either retiring or leaving the profession because of burnout and stress.

CQC Inspections

A key promise of the GPFV was to look into reducing the burden of CQC inspections. There are plans in place to rethink the structure of the process – it looks like there will be less regular inspections for practices who have been rated good and outstanding.

One of the big plusses to come out of the new GP contract was that CQC fees will now be reimbursed directly and form part of practices’ regular payment. You’ll just need to submit a paid invoice to your CCG or NHS England.

Practice Staff Training

A key point in this area was a push to ensure every practice can benefit from training clerical staff to take more of the admin burden away from GPs. To find out more about this, take a look at primary care training experts Thornfields’ two new courses to help receptionists and clerical staff take enhanced roles in Active Signposting and Correspondence Management.

On a less positive note, money was promised for practice nurse development in the GPFV, but organisations such as the Council of Deans of Health are reporting that training resources for nursing in the NHS are actually being cut.

Using Technology

Practices will be encouraged to have one in five patients using online services, including apps where possible, to provide increased access to clinical correspondence online. Increasing levels of self-care among patients is one of the key elements of the GPFV, and developing an NHS-approved apps library to help patients take more ownership of their health care is a big part of that.

We also saw a pledge to make funds available to cover the hardware, implementation and service costs to put Wi-Fi services in GP practices for staff and patients. Around 1,000 practices now have free Wi-Fi for patients as of March, and the plan is for the service to be rolled out across all practices by the end of the year.

Indemnity

A sum of £30 million worth of funding has been allocated in the new GP contract to cover increases in indemnity costs for GPs. We can see this support in action too - in March, the 2016 Winter Indemnity Scheme was extended to cover Easter and the first payments from the GP Indemnity Support Scheme are due be paid to practices.

Dr Arvind Madan, GP and Director of Primary Care for NHS England, said: “We know the rising costs of indemnity are proving a real obstacle for GPs and this funding is an example of our determination to help tackle the issue.”

So what’s the diagnosis?

Although it’s worth bearing in mind that we are just 12 months into a five year mission, it’s a really mixed bag so far. There have been positive steps in terms of tackling GP indemnity costs and looking to reduce the burden of the CQC process (in terms of both bureaucracy and finance), which is a great sign.

The big sticking point though is the lack of progress on how to solve the problem of recruiting more GPs. Finding 5,000 extra doctors always seemed like a stretch, and reports indicate that the first year of the GPFV actually saw the number working in practice actually decline. Coupled with factors like GP burnout and the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, that goal now seems less likely than ever.

One thing’s for sure – it’ll be fascinating to see where we are next autumn as we reach the halfway point of the Forward View. Stay tuned to the FPM Blog to keep on top of the latest news and updates affecting primary care.


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