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Is the Primary Care Home model the future of General Practice?

Matt Hancock told GPs that general practice can ‘blossom’ under the Primary Care Home model in a recent speech. But is this integrated approach to healthcare really the answer to the many problems facing primary care?

Heralded by NHS England as an innovative way to strengthen and redesign primary care, the Primary Care Home model brings health and social care professionals together to provide enhanced personalised and preventative care for local communities.

Fifteen rapid test sites were chosen to test the PCH model in December 2015 and the programme soon expanded to more than 160 sites across England. By this point it was already serving seven million patients – 12% of the population.

Redesigning primary care

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was reported by GP Online as telling an audience at the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) conference: “I love the Primary Care Home Model. I think it’s absolutely fantastic. I’ve seen some of the results in a number of different settings [and] I think there’s a huge future for it.”

In his speech, Mr Hancock pointed to the example of Cambridge’s Granta Medical Practices. Granta joined forces with neighbouring Shelford Medical Practice to form a Primary Care Home in 2017, and the practices merged earlier this year. A case study published by the NACP describes how the shift to the model affected the practices and lists the solutions (and problems) that it created.

Weighing up the positive and negatives

The new approach allowed the two practices to work at scale effectively and establish professional management and IT support systems, as well as extending surgery hours on some days to give patients access from 6.30am to 8pm. The case study describes how 46% of patients were able to receive same-day access to a GP, thanks to continuity of care and effective management of long-term conditions.

The switch to the new model was not without issues however, with both partners and staff having to adapt to new ways of working and break old habits. It was also decided that rather than trying to involve all 16 GP partners in every decision, an operational executive of three partners and senior practice management would be set up and given the authority to run the organisation.

Looking to the future, plans were discussed to move towards a John Lewis-type model of ownership, with all staff having a stake in the business rather than the traditional model of employees working for doctors.

Breaking down barriers to integrated care

Since the case study was completed, the Primary Care Home has forged a partnership with Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH), allowing them to securely access clinical patient information from CUH’s electronic patient record system.

Dr James Morrow, managing partner of Granta Medical Practices, told Cambridge Network: “Both Granta and CUH have invested in modern electronic health record systems. Being able to access patient records seamlessly and in real time for both hospital and community settings helps co-ordinate and improve the delivery of care.”

A glimpse into the future?

Whichever way you look at it, taking on the PCH model would mean adapting to big changes in approach for many practices. While the opportunities that it presents for improving care and providing more integrated care systems are evident, it’s equally clear that it throws up a host of organisational challenges.

While more integrated healthcare seems the logical step forward for the NHS, whether this particular model can prove a good fit for practices of all shapes and sizes remains to be seen.  Would you be open to implementing this model at your practice? If you have worked at a practice using this model, what are your impressions? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Click here to read Mr Hancock’s full speech to the NAPC. Don’t forget to stay tuned to the FPM Blog for all of the latest healthcare news, initiatives and information that matters most to Practice Managers.


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Practice Manager - London, Clerkenwell

Closing Date: 10 June 2020

Salary: According to experience

Practice Manager - London, Clerkenwell

Closing Date: 10 June 2020

Salary: According to experience

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