Primary care services provide the first point of contact in the health and care system for most people. They act as the 'front door' of the NHS. GP practices provide most primary care, dentists, opticians and community pharmacies are also primary care services.
The biggest challenges for GP practices are workforce (recruiting and retaining staff) and coping with the ever increasing demand for appointments. GP practices are working together to find new ways of working so that services are integrated with community, social care and mental health services - to help patients access their care closer to home.
The things we are doing to strengthen primary care include:
- Developing new "Primary Care Networks" to base local services around.
- Offering 1800 additional evening and weekend appointments per month across Norfolk and Waveney. This is a programme called "Improved Access".
- Introducing social prescribing and active signposting. Both of these schemes involve GP practices putting people in touch with other support services, which work closely with the NHS - such as debt advice or befriending groups – these services may be more suitable for helping people tackle the root cause of their problems
- Working to reduce the number of appointments missed by people who no longer need them or forget to cancel
- Recruiting more GPs, trainees, nurses and other health professionals to work in Norfolk and Waveney
- Introducing new roles in GP practices, such as clinical pharmacists.
The NHS Long Term Plan places a big emphasis on investing in primary care and one of the first big initiatives is to support general practice to develop multi-disciplinary teams. for example the NHS wants to attract more clinical pharmacists into practices. We have already made a good start.