Last week the Prime Minister announced that by 2020, everyone in Britain will have access to GP services seven days a week.
Mr Cameron said: “People need to be able to see their GP at a time that suits them and their family.”
There is a growing movement towards making more NHS services available seven days a week so they can fit around patients’ lives and we can maximise the return on the investment made on expensive equipment and other resources.
Interestingly, this is something we are grappling with at NHS Doncaster CCG as we develop a new vision for ‘primary care’. Primary care is the patient’s first contact point with the NHS when they have a problem, usually through an appointment at their GP practice. They receive secondary care when they are referred to a hospital for treatment.
NHS Doncaster CCG does not fund the core ‘primary care’ services you receive at your local GP surgery – that’s NHS England’s role – but we are responsible for monitoring the quality of them. We also work with practices on introducing other services that will bring additional health benefits in areas where they are particularly needed.
NHS staff see more than a million patients every 36 hours. Around 90 per cent of those patients are seen in local GP practices but only around 10 per cent of the NHS budget is spent there.
I would like to see health services in Doncaster being more active at preventing disease and poor health rather than being disproportionately focused on providing reactive treatment. I want high-quality health services to be provided as close to where people live as possible, in a variety of innovative ways.
Primary care services should be active and focused on early diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Crucially, they should help people to maintain their independence.
Doncaster’s community-based health services should wrap around the patient, so care can be provided by a variety of organisations, making the patient feel it is one seamless service.
We have some real challenges facing us in Doncaster so we need to get this right. We have an ageing population, with the number of local people aged over 65 set to rise by 1,000 a year over the next 10 years. Local emergency admissions to hospital are amongst the highest in the country and many Doncaster people are living with three or more long-term health conditions. So helping people to manage their conditions will become even more important in the years ahead.
n I was pleased to be involved in a photo-shoot last week for our new ‘keep a clean sheet’ bowel cancer awareness campaign, which launches next month in partnership with Doncaster Rovers and the Club Doncaster Foundation. Great help from Rovers’ goalkeeping legend Jan Budtz and my colleague Dr Marco Pieri, who both feature in the campaign. All will be revealed soon.
* Dr Nick Tupper, Chairman, Doncaster clinical commissioning group