Who will lead the way to patient-centred care? | Dr Nav Chana

Man looking thoughtful

22 November saw the publication of an important report on patient-centred care. Published by the Royal College of General Practitioners, An inquiry into patient-centred care in the 21st century sets out an ambition for holistic, empowering and tailored care based on putting patients and populations at the heart of care, focusing on outcomes, and having leaders and innovators to lead and inspire. 

Who would disagree with this?

But to achieve it, we can’t wait for a single heroic leader to move us forward. All of us working across health and care need to take the reins. And the primary care workforce needs to be empowered to lead the change. What does this mean in practice? 
Well, it means basing the value we get from healthcare on the outcomes that matter most to people, recognising that they won’t necessarily be narrowly defined disease-based outcomes. They may, in fact, revolve around their overall wellbeing. 

In some cases, this will require a new relationship between a care professional and patient, one that is more collaborative and builds a patient’s desire and ability to self-manage. 

It also means that we will need payment systems and contractual models that are designed to incentivise, support and encourage care based on what people actually want for themselves, while also being contextualised within the place in which care is delivered.

But crucially, it means that we will need to do more to encourage and support new models of primary care provision. And this is fundamental if we are to meet the growing demand on primary care services – upping GP numbers alone is simply not enough. 

As highlighted in our recent report, Not more of the same: ensuring we have the right workforce for future models of care, an increase in GP numbers must happen alongside the development of a wider primary care workforce that is able to better facilitate new, more collaborative and sustainable models of care. This collaboration can be done through networks and federations, to deliver services more effectively in appropriate settings. 

Many GP provider organisations are already doing this, but many more need support to help them work together to integrate services to transform care delivery. A simple way of doing this is to share best practice – promoting innovative work already going on to inspire others to do the same, and spreading the message that networks and federations can be more than just groups of GP practices.
I’m not alone in my thinking – these sentiments are echoed by colleagues within the wider National Association of Primary Care family. These steps to turn the patient-centred care mantra into a system-wide mandate are actions we all need to get behind, and now.

Dr Nav Chana is a GP and chair of the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC). NAPC is the primary care provider network of the NHS Confederation. Follow the organisation on Twitter @NAPC_NHS

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