General practitioners (GPs) are the lynchpin for patients and despite mounting pressures there’s huge scope for improving experiences for patients. Yet health charities are often uncertain about how best to support and enable GPs; there’s a clear need to build more strategic and meaningful engagement. This is not an issue that can be tackled by individual charities alone; a collaborative approach is needed to shape innovative, evidence-led solutions to the challenge.
We know from our research that whilst for a number of patients their expectations of GPs are met, there are significant numbers of people who feel let down. The patients we have spoken to have told us about misdiagnosis, delays in referral, and insufficient support with managing or monitoring conditions.
“Despite numerous visits to my GP regarding my symptoms it took around five years before I was finally referred.”
Man aged 22 with cancer
GPs are often the first port of call when a person starts experiencing symptoms and will usually stay in contact with the patient throughout their journey from diagnosis through treatment, management and end of life care. People rely on GPs for rapid referral and early diagnosis of their condition, especially for conditions such as cancer where prognosis is dependent on how quickly the cancer is identified. People with long term conditions, who account for at least 50% of all GP appointments , benefit from coordinated, person-centered care that supports self-management throughout their journey .
“[My GP] freely admits to not being an expert and isn’t able to offer me what I consider to be good advice.”
Woman aged 56 with a long-term condition
It is perhaps unsurprising that people’s experiences can be poor, as general practice is currently under enormous pressure contending with rising patient demand, cuts to funding, staff shortages, and the movement of unfunded work out of hospitals and into the community. Against this backdrop, not only does the need to address concerns about the potential for a deterioration of the care provided by GPs become increasingly urgent, but primary care offers huge scope for improving people’s experience throughout their patient journey and it is important we act quickly and support general practice in moving forward.
Many charities we work with are keenly aware of the significant opportunity for improved patient care through engagement with general practice, but no charity we’ve spoken to feels they can tackle it alone. Isolated interventions by individual charities risk compounding the problem they were intended to solve, by overwhelming GPs. We are passionate about acting as a catalyst for collaboration among health charities in tackling these sector-wide challenges through evidence and partnership with the ultimate aim of achieving greater impact for patients.
As part of our collaborative ‘Futures’ projects we are forming two health charity collaborations, one focusing on long-term conditions and one focusing on cancer. Each collaboration will include a national study of GPs which will help to shape initiatives to better engage, educate and enable.
If you would like to find out more about the collaborations, please contact Laura Hotchkiss, Collaborations Lead (firstname.lastname@example.org or 0161 6050862).
1. Department of Health (2012) Long Term Conditions Compendium of Information Third Edition. London
2. Coulter A, Roberts S, Dixon A (2013) Delivering better services for people with long-term conditions Building the house of care.