Is our general practice model of care fit for purpose?

Posted by Campbell Brebner on 2 December 2016 |

Campbell Brebner

I recently returned from sabbatical overseas and one comment made to me by a GP in England sticks in my mind.  He said, “You know what, it’s too easy to be a bad GP here now”.

If that’s true, it’s a sad indictment of the health system in Britain and one I’m keen to ensure is never repeated here.  Of course no one goes to work intent on doing a bad job.  So how can we go about making sure that the right thing to do is the easiest thing to do, factoring in all the different practice ‘flavours’ that exist?

Whilst there isn’t going to be a simple, one size fits all solution, I see Counties Manukau Health’s commitment to Integrated Care as a key ingredient.  Success will deliver a high functioning health system - but it relies heavily on everyone working together.

To me, Integrated Care is about making sure all the cogs in our health care system are working effectively and ‘in sync’, in part, by weaving new networks between the old silos.  And, it’s about putting our primary and community providers at the heart, with better support and resource to ensure better experience and outcomes for patients. 

Practice teams working at the ‘coal face’ are the foundation blocks of the high functioning integrated system of care we want to create.  So we need to know what more we can do to ensure we don’t fall into the same pit of despair I witnessed in Britain. 

We need to know, for example, how can we help teams improve efficiency so there’s a better work, life balance, so you can leave work at 5pm with the job done, knowing your patients are safe, and reassured that your business is sustainable and a valuable asset?    

While the road to sustainability is not always easy, there are some relatively simple ‘quick fixes’, such as opening a patient portal.  Why?  Because this will assist to reduce practice workload.  How?  By encouraging patients to take an interest in, and manage their own health.   This is one example of what nine practices are being supported to explore through the Enhancing Primary Care collaborative.  This plans to demonstrate how practice capacity can be freed up, allowing more planned, proactive care, while at the same time maintaining practice sustainability.  Finding ways of connecting practice teams with other community teams and eliminating the need to refer so much is also part of the process.  Learnings from their work will be shared and disseminated to other practices.

Introducing new technology, upskilling and networking our workforce, especially those working in the community, are key to integrating care.  Community Health Team staff, for instance, now have tablets which, in essence function as a mobile office, freeing up time to focus on what’s important – the patient.  With this new technology, they can access the e-shared care record, meaning that a patient’s information is shareable across the system enabling a wider array of carers to communicate better and function effectively as a care team.

We’ll all know when we’re successful too, because our patients will stop falling through gaps, and have a smoother, more seamless and safe journey through the CM Health system.  So please let us know how we can help you to achieve a more sustainable practice – general practice is at the core of a patient’s care team and we all need to ‘pull together’ in the same direction if we are to succeed!