Health bosses present plan to deal with GP ‘crisis’ in Sheffield

Katrina Cleary, primary care programme director for Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group. Photo: Mark Harvey
Katrina Cleary, primary care programme director for Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group. Photo: Mark Harvey
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Health chiefs have come up with a long-term plan to move Sheffield GP surgeries away from the ‘crisis’ they currently face.

A combination of factors including increasing patient demand, complex health needs and a lack of trained GPs is causing problems at a national level, according to Katrina Cleary, primary care programme director for Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group.

But, speaking to the city council’s health and social care policy development committee, she said a new primary care strategy was being developed to ensure Sheffield takes control of the issue and comes up with its own solutions.

“A lot of the forces we are up against are national, but there are some local issues in there,” she said.

“And we know our city, and the needs of our city.

“We did a lot of work in the autumn with our GPs. They were absolutely clear that the status quo is not an option and a change needs to come. For the most part they are really up for a change.

“Within primary care it’s difficult. It’s a crisis.

“But across Sheffield’s health and social care systems, all the stars are coming into alignment. It feels like there is an opportunity here that we don’t need to miss.”

The new strategy is based on freeing up GPs from less complex work so they can concentrate on managing the increasing number of complex patients, the majority of whom are older with long-term health problems.

Katrina and Dr St John Livesey, a GP and member of the CCG’s commissioning executive team, told councillors this could partly be done by working more closely with existing health professionals such as pharmacists, nurses and physician’s associates. And a key point of the strategy is to teach people how best to use these professionals, so they get the right treatment while giving people better access to healthcare.

Another key aim of the strategy is to make sure general practice appeals as a career path – particularly to students at Sheffield’s universities.

While admitting his bias, Dr Livesey said: “General practice is the most interesting branch of medicine, and it’s become more and more interesting. It’s difficult, challenging stuff, but it’s a great job.

“The work is really interesting but the job is just impossible. Doctors will come to Sheffield if we can make the job doable.”

The CCG will hold an extensive public consultation on its primary care strategy in the summer.