To provide direction for the current cohort of NHS commissioners, the public were asked what they considered to be the greatest priorities for the NHS over the next five years, choosing from:
• Care for the elderly
• Care closer to home (eg, care at home or in local clinics outside hospital)
• Access to GPs at weekends
• Prevention (ie, tackling public health issues like smoking and obesity)
• Greater use of technology (eg, Skype consultations, health monitoring wearables)
• Don’t know
Respondents were asked to score as many as they felt relevant. The results show the highest priorities for the general public are care for the elderly (57%) and access to GPs at weekends (54%), indicating support for greater access to seven day services.
Leading GP, Dr Michael Dixon, chair of NHS Alliance, senior adviser to NHS Clinical Commissioners, and one of the Conference chairs, will say: “In a week where the clinical voice has been loud, it is important that we listen as well as talk. The findings on elderly care support the Secretary of State's emphasis on personal care with an accountable clinician. Together with the public view that access to GPs at the weekend is also a high priority, this starts an important debate about the increased importance of primary care. Commissioners now need to explore exactly what sort of access patients actually want, and whether this is just for unscheduled conditions – and can be with any local GP thus preventing unnecessary hospital use – or whether patients and public are asking more than this at a time of limited manpower and resources.
“Funding streams also need review. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution; what works for my GP colleagues in Brixton won’t necessarily work for me in rural Devon, so we must take a pragmatic approach to implementation. Done sensibly we should expect to see some easing of pressure on emergency services.”
Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, which represents the majority of independent care homes in England and is a key speaker on the Conference programme will say: “It is hugely reassuring that the general public view care of the elderly as a priority, which is too often swept aside as a Cinderella service – one of our main challenges as a country is an ageing population living with one or many long-term conditions. Their dignity and quality of life remains our absolute priority. All new governments set increasing expectations for the health and social care system and the current administration will do this against the backdrop of austerity. The most important thing for commissioners to know, is how to work smarter not harder, in order to deliver a high quality and sustainable service. My priority is to look at the potential of residential care services to deliver flexible high quality care for people with long-term conditions, and I will challenge commissioners and providers to deliver quality care while still saving money. Health+Care is an important national event packed with ideas and will give commissioners and managers an opportunity to see examples of innovation and good practice that deliver better care for our more vulnerable frail and elderly.”
Professor Rob Darracott, chief executive of Pharmacy Voice, which represents community pharmacy, and another key speaker, comments: “Pharmacy Voice fully supports care of the elderly as a priority, and we are proactively addressing this as a key part of our agenda. This builds on the strong work many community pharmacies already do, supporting older people through services such as medicines usage reviews, those with long term conditions and dementia, and simply with day to day care and support. We also work closely with GP colleagues and agree that we are at the start of an important debate. Access to GPs at the weekends will be appropriate some of the time, but in many situations an intervention by a practice nurse or community pharmacist can be just as valuable to the patient.”