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People with complex health problems ‘need relationship with same GP’

Think tank warns against rushing digital access for patients

People who have complex health problems need an ongoing relationship with the same medical professionals to get the best outcomes, the Nuffield Trust has stated.

The comments follow the publication of NHS England’s Digital First Primary Care consultation, which demands that new digitally-based GP services add to staff in areas that are short of them.

Dr Rebecca Rosen, Nuffield Trust’s senior fellow, said this proposal is a big improvement from the loose requirements set for earlier providers.

She said there is some evidence that services delivering care remotely attract GPs back into work, and by steering them to the right place this could improve access to care in some of the most deprived parts of England.

However, Rosen argued there are other issues to consider.

“People with complex health problems require an ongoing relationship with the same professionals to get the best outcomes and avoid onward referrals. This mustn’t get lost in the rush for quick digital access,” she warned.

The GP at Hand evaluation also suggested that users of digital services were younger and generally healthier. Rosen argued new providers will have to work differently to avoid diverting extra doctors to people who need them less.

“There has been impressive progress with the formation of primary care networks, with the whole country covered and a range of support measures in place. But the wide-ranging demands across building networks, improving quality, digital transformation and many other areas are a lot to ask of new bodies,” she said. “They will need to be carefully staged so as not to overwhelm an already stretched workforce.”