You may have seen reference to the Leeds GP confederation, primary care networks and local care partnerships but what does it all mean? Jim Barwick, Chief Executive of Leeds GP Confederation explains and tells us future developments are in the pipeline.
The Leeds GP Confederation is a ‘not for profit social enterprise’, working to improve the health of the people of Leeds by strengthening and sustaining general practice – or primary care, as it is known.
We were established in March 2018, formed from the existing three GP Federations. We’re a member-led organisation, made up of every GP practice in the city, and we provide a coordinated approach, working closely with other health and care organisations to support primary care across the city.
It’s fair to say that primary care has undergone many changes in recent years and currently faces a number of challenges. Chief amongst these is the problem of recruiting and retaining doctors and essential healthcare staff while the number of patients with complex healthcare needs increases.
Nationally, the NHS Long Term Plan is addressing these challenges by requiring every region in England to set up primary care networks (PCNs) – groups of practices working together to serve geographical areas of between 30,000 and 50,000 patients. PCNs will eventually be required to deliver a set of national service specifications, including structured medication reviews, enhanced health in care homes, anticipatory care (with community services), personalised care, early cancer diagnosis, cardiovascular disease case-finding and tackling local health inequalities.
To do this they will be expected to provide a wider range of primary care services to patients, involving a wider set of staff roles than individual practices could provide, for example, physiotherapy, extended access at evenings and weekends and social prescribing – services that help people address non-medical issues that might be affecting their health, for example debt or loneliness.
In Leeds, we have been working this way informally for some time, with groups of practices working collaboratively in ‘localities.’ The Confederation is now supporting practices to set up and develop PCNs, which are broadly based on the former 18 locality groupings. For example, we can provide financial management, HR and IT services, enabling the networks to focus on caring for patients by taking on some of the administrative responsibilities.
Of course, our GP practices and PCNs don’t work in isolation. A key part of our role is to help bring together primary and community care – district nurses, occupational and physiotherapists, podiatry services and so on. So we work very closely with Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust (LCH) to help bring services together to provide more streamlined patient care. We also work closely with other health and care providers in the city to help make sure that people get the right care in the right place with the right people at the right time.
In Leeds, we share an ambition that we will be the best city for health and wellbeing, where the health of the poorest improves the fastest. To help achieve that, local care partnerships are being developed to provide health and care that meets the needs of local people. The partnerships bring together NHS, local authority and voluntary sector organisations, together with local councillors and residents – people who really know their area. Primary care networks will be at the centre of these partnerships, with many of the services being delivered from GP practices in the heart of the communities they serve.
So while primary care faces many challenges, it also faces real opportunities to further improve the lives of patients and play a greater role in the wider health and care system. In Leeds, the Confederation is helping make that happen by supporting our individual GP practices and primary care networks to flourish.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Jim