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“How do you make the boat go faster?”
Last week, the Royal College of General Practitioners published its annual health check on progress of the GP Forward View. The plan, which sets out how transformation of general practice can enable the health service to meet its goals of easier access to primary care and other services in the community, two years since its publication.
There are two main findings of RCGP’s check on the promises for premises: that the pace of decision-making is a challenge, and that demand for investment from the £1bn Estates and Technology Transformation Fund far outstrips supply.
The findings beg a borrowed question from Ben Hunt-Davis MBE, Olympic gold-winning rower: “how do you make the boat go faster?”. RCGP’s assessment flags speed of premises action as an ongoing problem, but also raises the more important point: to make the primary care ‘boat’ more effective, it needs the right infrastructure to support it – whether that’s improvements to existing facilities, or the creation of new spaces to allow general practice to expand access in our communities. As the report’s authors note, “With a growing and ageing population, issues of space and modernisation will only become keener.”
So, faster decision-making will help, but more acute is the need for informed decision making – based on better data and evidence of what works in primary care estate, to allow primary care services to collaborate and to give patients a better experience.
More money is a no-brainer: the need to invest in primary care infrastructure is abundantly clear, underlined by the detailed capital bidding process of Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships and work such as that of the Nuffield Trust this year. But to make those rowing strokes more effective, every penny invested in primary care buildings must work to its full potential for patient care via the infrastructure that surrounds it. That means really effective local planning for the long term; looking at what each community’s primary care estate can deliver now, and what it will need to deliver in the future. RCGP’s review highlights some of the challenges – but there is much open water to cross before GPs reach the premises their patients and staff deserve.
Claire Rick is our Head of Public Affairs