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We need to start now

PCTs need to provide the support and the resources to free up GPs now to develop consortia, says Dr Paul Zollinger-Read in his latest note from the dark side.

This week I’ve had several different meeting with local consortia, with existing PBC groups, with the LMC and also with GPs keen to move forwards with consortia development in Peterborough.

We are seeing variable figures in terms of growing referrals and all GPs are keen to build on referral and prescribing management that currently exists. The issue is how do we free up GPs time to help them focus on these important issues and also on the crucial work of consortia development.

It’s absolutely clear that when GPs have protected time it works well, but what doesn’t work is when you have to duck and dive out of surgeries trying to grab time here and there; understandably this isn’t sustainable and they are not able to focus as they wish. I certainly experienced this and it wasn’t until I had very clear days that were in surgery and days that were dedicated to management work that I was able to fully commit.

There are a couple of issues here that we need to acknowledge; the first is that this work spent outside of face-to-face patient time is crucial; it’s not some sort of additional waffle. There is sometimes a perception that management or leadership isn’t proper work….in my experience it is every bit as challenging as the patient in front of you and also every bit as crucial if we are to develop local health care to meet our patients needs.

The second point is that to do this we need certainty and consistency. At present however it’s just done on an ad hoc basis; so locally I have proposed that we explore setting up a pool of ‘home grown’ locums so that we have local access to good quality GPs and are able to give some degrees of consistency to surgeries; this will allow for far better planning.

This won’t happen by the end of the week but the changes we are implementing across the NHS are not short term and we need to start planning now to determine how we free up GPs to deliver these ambitious changes.

However, whilst we develop this support it is also crucial that we do all we can to free up GP time in a consistent and sustainable manner; it never ceases to amaze me that we end up arguing about a few hours here and there. We need GP time and for that we need to pay them.

This isn’t some open ended joy ride and we need to ensure we are clear what the tasks are, but as far as I can see there is a great deal to be done and we need to free up GPs to do it now.

Dr Paul Zollinger-Read is a GP and chief executive of NHS Cambridgeshire

Click here for more notes from the dark side Dr Paul Zollinger-Read