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Independents' Day

2050 predictions: The NHS will still rely on GPs

NHS England director for information Tim Kelsey on why innovation in general practice is key to the future

General practice is the bedrock of our NHS and our common commitment to universal health care, regardless of the ability of pay. The registered list and lifelong continuity of care are at the heart of our values as a society. The relationship between patients and GPs is among our most important social interactions and offers a trusting, confidential partnership that supports us when we are at our most vulnerable. 

General practice is not just fundamental to today’s NHS – it is key to the future.

But it is under stress. Changing demographics pose new challenges at a time when financial resources in our society are constrained.

The entrepreneurial spirit is one of the defining characteristics of the modern GP. As we think about the shape of general practice in 2050, a key question is how local brilliance in solving real patient problems will translate into the transformation of general practice at scale. 

In the heart of London’s Olympic village is a symbol of transforming social leadership: a new health centre, home to a pioneering general practice which is offering some of the most challenged communities in East London a new standard of personalised care. Patients here are offered a range of digital services of the sort they would expect in other aspects of their modern lives. They register online from home, which most do by preference, and they can consult their GP from home or work using an online tool that captures a safe, structured history which the GP can use to triage remotely.

The Hurley Group, which runs this practice, says preliminary results suggest that more than 60% of those who have used the service solve their problem without the need to visit the GP and 78% said that it saved them time - important for self-employed people in deprived communities.

One of the key priorities of the Five-Year Forward View is to support general practice to respond to the challenges of a 21st-century society, innovate at scale and empower patients to take more responsibility and control of their health and care.

A sustainable NHS in 2050 will, through general practice, offer different approaches to access and will take advantage of the kind of digital technologies that have powered transformation in retail and financial services, but it will also spend more time with people with complex needs. 

The NHS knows that it needs specialists who are generalists and, as the number of people with long-term co-morbidities grows, that becomes an increasingly vital capability. The sustainability of the NHS depends on it.

Tim Kelsey is NHS England’s director for information.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • General Practice will be over in 10 years.

    This is just a 'charm' offensive by NHSE pre-election to make us 'feel important'.

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  • Government funded all encompassing healthcare = full person health/life/social/employment record.

    I can't think of any examples at all where this has been a bad idea....

    If I treated patients with consent based on 'opt-out' only, I would be struck off. treats consent for data sharing in this callous way.

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