The health secretary has suggested that the NHS treats patients’ health conditions ‘separately’, but GPs suggested this revealed a blatant misunderstanding of what GPs do.
Writing about the Government’s major conditions strategy, set to be published later this year, Mr Barclay said that ‘for too long our healthcare services have treated these conditions separately’.
But GPs pointed out that Mr Barclay’s comments show a lack of understanding around what general practice is, and how it works to treat patients with multi-morbidity.
Writing in the Express earlier this week, Mr Barclay said: ‘Getting sick with a major condition is a sad fact of life for many of us at some stage. And all too often that shattering news can soon be followed by the diagnosis of a second serious health issue.
‘Medical evidence shows that patients suffering from the six most common major health conditions are likely to have at least two of those illnesses.
‘Yet for too long our healthcare services have treated these conditions separately.
‘Joining up health and care is crucial in ensuring patients get the most effective treatment possible for their individual needs. Our forthcoming Major Conditions Strategy will set the blueprint for doing that.’
Dr Steve Taylor, a GP in Manchester and GP spokesperson for the Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK), told Pulse: ‘This is general practice, the job of GPs and has been done effectively for decades. The failure to invest in the best placed doctors to provide holistic care, is a failure of this Government’s healthcare “strategy”.
‘There is no excuse for not ensuring we have the extra 6,000 GPs promised by this Government to provide the holistic care that this nation deserves.
‘GPs have been providing two million more appointments a month with limited resources and less real-terms funding. It’s time to invest where it counts.’
Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland LMC chair Dr Grant Ingrams said: ‘If only you had a primary care generalist service. Oh, but wait, you have – it’s called general practice and already does what you are calling for. You just need to invest in the service now.’
RCGP president Professor Dame Clare Gerada said: ‘Many services address only single diseases or parts of the body. There are few generalists able to address multiple conditions which our patients have.
‘What happens is the patient is moved around the system or asked to attend the GP. We need a shift in how we train and use staff.’
The RCN General Practice Nursing Forum also responded to the health secretary’s comments pointing out that ‘the expertise of managing patients with multi morbidity is prevalent amongst our nurses, GPs and allied health professionals’.
The forum spokesperson added: ‘This is the absolute bedrock of principles of care within general practice and has been for decades.’
In January, Steve Barclay announced that the Government will set out a strategy to tackle six major conditions contributing to England’s ‘burden of disease’, which he listed as cancers; cardiovascular diseases, including stroke and diabetes; chronic respiratory diseases; dementia; mental ill health; and musculoskeletal disorders.
Last month GPs were asked to respond to a consultation on the strategy, as a call for evidence was launched on how to prevent, diagnose, and manage the six conditions that account for 60% of ill health and early deaths in England.
According to Mr Barclay’s announcement earlier this year, the major conditions strategy will see health and care services, local Government and NHS bodies working ‘ever more closely together’ in order for the people of England to live ‘healthy, fulfilled, independent and longer lives’.
The strategy is expected to set out interventions that the Government can make ‘to ensure that ICSs and the organisations within them maximise the opportunities to tackle clusters of disadvantage in their local areas where they exist.’