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5 things to watch out for in Primary Care for 2019

Well that’s it for another year - all of the festive fun is over and done with. The tree is down, decorations have been packed up and twinkling lights tossed in the box to rear their tangled little heads again in 12 months’ time.


So, what does 2019 have in store for us?

Well let’s start with the one nobody wants to talk about - Brexit (bear with us!). As we noted in our Brexit update a few months ago, nothing is certain when it comes to the ‘Big B’ question, but we can certainly speculate and prepare for the possibilities.

Recruitment remains a huge issue in Primary Care - as part of the GP Forward View, NHS England aimed to double the growth rate in GPs through new incentives for training, recruitment, retention and return to practice. The target was to add a further 5,000 GPs in five years.

However, a survey of 68 NHS care institutions published by Politico last year found one in five had already altered recruitment plans because of the confusion surrounding Brexit. With the Government’s current Brexit plans up in the air, there are still questions about how things will change for EU nationals who may want to come to work in the NHS in the future.

There is also the possibility of the NHS possibly having to ‘stockpile drugs’ in case of a no-deal Brexit, which of course remains a very real possibility. The Government reportedly asked firms to start stockpiling a six-week supply of drugs last year, although that is logistically difficult for medicines that need refrigerating like insulin and vaccines or those with shorter shelf lives.

The Government recently revealed another new plan for the NHS encompassing the next ten years, ‘The NHS Long-Term Plan’. GP services and community care are set to be allocated an extra £4.5bn each year, which would be a massive boost to Primary Care. The idea behind this investment is a ‘renewed focus’ on preventative care that it is hoped will relieve some of the pressure on secondary care.

The promised funding is a welcome relief to those of us involved in Primary Care, however only time will tell if the funding is received in full and whether the focus on relieving hospitals is too ambitious. There will also be a greater emphasis on access to services and health information for patients, as well as more investment in tackling cancer, including diagnostic technology and extra funds being made available for research and innovation.

There’s no denying that historically the NHS has endured a strenuous relationship with the digital world; we’ve seen obsolete equipment, weak processes and systems that have failed to provide enough defence against hackers. With Matt Hancock as the new Health Secretary, it does now feel that the NHS might receive the digital revolution it so sorely needs.

Hancock has already presented himself as a figure synonymous with digital innovation and has been very vocal on his ambition to bring the NHS into a new digital era. However, his support for the GP at Hand app has been highly controversial with many, so this could prove to be a double-edged sword…

Four separate health systems have emerged across the UK thanks to increased devolution in recent times. Each nation has its own problem areas and it’s worth asking whether we should be prioritising solving universal issues or focusing on tackling each individual country’s biggest problems.

An extra £20bn being promised to England by 2023 means that a sum of around £4bn will be shared out between Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Whether the different health systems will continue to grow further apart and what effect this could have on integrated working between primary healthcare providers across the UK remains to be seen. 

In April last year the UK introduced a tax on sugary drinks as part of an anti-obesity policy. Now there has been recent talk about whether a pudding tax should be introduced as the next step in tackling the issue of individuals exceeding their recommended sugar intake.

Puddings do not come under the sugar tax, so this will take the form of a separate initiative launched by Public Health England. The original sugar reduction programme in 2017 aimed to cut the amount of sugar in popular foods by a fifth by 2020. So if cutting down on puds is your 2019 resolution then you may be in luck!


As always
First Practice Management will be at the forefront of primary care for 2019, bringing you the latest news and views, along with some exciting developments across our products and services including My Surgery Website and Thornfields Training.


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