On 9 May, the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England published their Delivery plan for recovering access to primary care.
We were really pleased to see that improving the experience of people accessing primary care was a key principle in the primary care recovery plan, as you’ll know this is central to what we stand for.
Two of our memberships’ consistent asks also directly underpin the primary care recovery plan which intends to improve access, triage and communications for people using primary care and ensure that choice and equity are central.
These commitments can be seen through the plan to invest in, expand and empower the primary care front of house team, and investing in improved website and telephone system models. We were also especially pleased to see a clear care navigation training programme for 6,500 staff to ensure that people can be heard and catered for, regardless of their specific health and communication needs.
We have also seen considerable movement on other issues we have been consistently lobbying for, especially for better joined up care for people with long term conditions. We need to see how the plan to improve self-referral into community services develops, but we celebrate the empowerment this change would give to patients who are most often the experts in their own health. Similarly, we would look to see AMRCs calls, within the same document, to reduce the admin burden on patients navigating care between primary and secondary providers move at pace to implementation.
It is vitally important that developments in digital systems do not leave people behind, and so we were also encouraged to see a plan for telephone receptionists to fill in online forms for people who are digitally excluded. The reasons for why a person may be digitally excluded are complex, and so it is crucial that integrated care boards monitor how improved primary care access is implemented so it works for everybody, regardless of background.
Many of our asks also feature prominently in the Labour Party’s 'Building an NHS fit for the future’ again as a result of external affairs work. These include the need to reform primary care to improve access to GPs, a larger role for pharmacists and the need to join up community health and social care services. The party’s call to improve mental health support throughout people’s health journey is one that we have also advocated for to improve people’s experiences and reduce crises and therefore pressure on primary care.
GP services are the front door to the NHS, and often our first port of call when we feel unwell. We are pleased to see big everyday challenges being tackled and spoken about in both of these documents.
This is a demonstration of what National Voices, a coalition of 200+ members, can achieve in making tangible change for people accessing health and care services. We will continue to work hard with, and on behalf of our membership to ensure that people’s experience is placed at the centre of future NHS or wider-health plans.
We must of course give a huge thank you to those working tirelessly in primary care to provide accessible, equitable and high-quality care.
If you are reading this as someone who works for a health or social care charity, and you’re interested in finding out more about how becoming a member of National Voices could benefit you, please visit our website for more information, or contact us and we would be happy to have a conversation with you.
We are excited to expand upon conversations on the topic of primary care in our conference – find out more and register here.