An independent report has suggested that ‘strengthening’ general practice must be a key focus of the NHS.
The document – published by an independent advisory group to the NHS called the NHS Assembly – highlighted the need for more care to be delivered closer to home and noted that ‘bolstering’ general practice and community services would be central to achieving this.
It said that as society faced an ‘increase’ in chronic disease, the NHS should ‘shift towards providing support for mental and social wellbeing, alongside physical needs’.
But in order to achieve this, it is ‘essential to allocate resources, including staff, closer to home’ and provide further support to primary and community care services, the report added.
The report’s co-author, and co-chair of the NHS Assembly, Professor Dame Clare Gerada said that the document ‘gives permission’ to integrated care systems (ICS) to continue ‘evolving primary and community care to deliver patient care closer to home’.
Published ahead of the 75th anniversary of the NHS, the report notes that the health service is now facing far greater demand than when it was first created, with almost 3.5m more people aged over 75 compared with 1948.
This has come alongside a shift towards treating common conditions such as diabetes and heart-disease in primary care, creating an additional 100m more GP appointments compared with 25 years ago, it added.
In light of the ‘very significant challenges or rising demand, constrained capacity, and the need to recover from Covid-19’, the report called for capital investment and a long-term infrastructure plan to ‘modernise’ primary care.
This is hoped to support the development of digital and physical infrastructure within primary care, enabling healthcare workers to make better use of data and technology.
In addition to strengthening primary care, the other two ‘big shifts’ recommended by the report were to prevent poor health and create more personalised care.
The report’s authors argued that the goal of the NHS in the coming years should be to ‘improve healthy life expectancy and reduce inequalities in health outcomes’.
Likewise, the report suggested that ‘personalising care for those from marginalised and disadvantaged communities is essential for addressing health inequalities’.
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said she knew ‘how energising many colleagues have found having the chance to think about opportunities to improve health and care for the future’.
Ms Pritchard added: ‘This report will help to build on the progress already made, both locally and nationally, for years to come.’