Guest blog – Dr Ishani Patel: Workforce Reimagined – the digital future of primary care homes and networksMay 31 2019
Since 2015 the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) have supported the setup of over 230 primary care homes (PCHs) exemplifying par excellence what primary care networks (PCNs) can achieve. By 2023/24, PCNs are expected to receive approx. £1.8bn which includes funding for 20,000 more health professionals including additional clinical pharmacists, physician associates, first contact physiotherapists, community paramedics and social prescribing link workers. These professionals will work across PCNs, as part of community teams, providing tailored care for patients and allowing GPs to focus more on patients with complex needs. Extra access funding of £30 million annually including extended hours provision will also come to PCNs followed by the availability of web and video consultations by 2021. With this introduction of 20,000 health professionals alongside the “digital front-door” or “digitalfirst” offering what does this entail for workforce operations as PCHs and PCNs centralise back office functions? How can workforce technology platforms improve oversight and productivity for workforce operations?
NHS England are learning from digital exemplars and accelerators to explore the impact and potential of these innovative pathways in general practice, primary care homes / networks, urgent care and GP-led A&E streaming. The Topol review published in February 2019 made recommendations to enable NHS staff to make the most of innovative technologies which support the aims of the NHS Long-Term Plan, and the workforce implementation plan, helping to ensure a sustainable NHS. So how can primary care homes, primary care networks and emerging integrated care systems utilise and share their existing workforce resource and also develop a digital workforce?
What does this mean for general practice?
Single site online consulting is exploding in general practice but can be a challenge to staff with already pressured capacity. By deploying a Hub model – for asynchronous and/or synchronous platforms – PCHs / PCNs can offer flexibility and diversification for the NHS workforce with the opportunity to combine on-site and remote working for clinicians and clerical staff supporting the delivery of primary and integrated care. This is an attractive option for the workforce and can contribute to “the joy at work” offering resilience, improving macro-continuity and retention as well as reaping the “at-scale” efficiency gains.
How will it change/impact general practices and the work they do?
Technology platforms that create multi-professional workforce banks with in-built e-rostering solutions can enable sharing of on-site and online workforce resource and be a vehicle for collaboration – strengthening the relationships within primary care homes and networks. A platform can provide business intelligence and an overview of all staffing within a offering greater transparency of trend, need and demand thereby providing administrators, rostering coordinators and operations leads a more efficient method for staffing their on-site clinics, telehealth services, specialist services, community clinics and access Hubs. Technology platforms can increase clinician utilisation for in-hours and extended hours, unlock capacity, reduce agency spend, minimise clinical inertia, save administrators and rota managers time, significantly increase the number of shifts filled, share resource across practices and sectors in a wider geography and improve collaborative working for clinical and clerical staff – with a positive impact on continuity, sustainability at macro-system level and operational efficiency – an essential component to overcoming the challenges faced to workforce recruitment and retention.
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Dr Ishani Patel, GP lead HarnessCare eHub, NWL Digital Accelerator, RCGP Innovation Mentorship Programme & Co-founder Lantum