Department of Health and Social Care
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Patient voice central to new direction for primary care

Patient voice central to new direction for primary care

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH News Release issued by The Government News Network on 3 July 2008

A new strategy published today by the Department of Health will give patients and the public a stronger voice, enable them to make informed decisions and have greater choice and control in managing their health and healthcare.

'Our vision for Primary and Community Care', published as part of the Next Stage Review of the NHS, sets out the future direction for primary and community care in England, where essential standards are ensured and excellence is rewarded. It focuses on personal and responsive health care - providing integrated care based around the person, not just their individual symptoms or care needs.

The strategy underlines the central role primary and community care services play in keeping people healthy, preventing illness and promoting healthy life styles as well as tackling regional variations in health and well-being.

Health Services Minister Ben Bradshaw said:

"Our NHS primary and community care services are highly valued by patients and the public - for the personal continuity of care they provide and for their strong ties with local communities. As the NHS turns 60 this year, we need to build on these strengths and to raise our ambitions looking forward to the future.

"People tell us that they want to be more involved in decisions about their health care and that primary and community care should be more individual, convenient and joined up. Change will only come from listening more closely to what users tell us, responding to that and giving them more choice and say over their health care.

"Our vision for primary care will protect the highly popular and effective system of registering with a local GP, but give family doctors a stronger role in working with other clinicians, local authorities and other organisations to provide the right services, in the right place and at the right time to meet individual needs.

"All of this will only happen by unlocking the talents and professionalism of NHS staff working in primary care, giving them greater freedoms to provide the services their patients want and more control over how they do it, whilst equipping them with the necessary skills."

Professor Michael Dixon, GP from Devon and Chair of NHS Alliance is a member of the Primary and Community Care Advisory Board. He said:

"The Primary Care Strategy is a big thumbs up for general practice. The principles and values upon which it is based, such as the registered list, quality and personal care and continuity, are those that matter most to good GPs. Furthermore, it supports and extends our ability to improve the health of our patients and the services available to them. As a charter for renewed and refreshed general practice, the next challenge will be for us GPs to provide innovation and leadership that will enable the Strategy to make a real difference for our patients".

Building on the £250 million extra investment and recent initiatives in Primary Care, today's announcement means:

* listening and responding to what people tell us. The GP patient survey will be extended to encourage patient feedback and greater public accountability for staff working in Primary Care;

* greater choice of GP. Patients will be able to register online and have a greater range of options for consulting with their GP (eg by telephone or email). Practice funding will be reformed to reward GPs who take on new patients to support greater patient choice;

* everyone with a long-term condition will have their own personalised care plan - and those with complex health needs - a care co-ordinator - by 2010. individual health budgets will be piloted to allow patients to have greater control over how NHS funding is used to support their care;

* creating a new secure web-based system called 'myhealthspace', allowing people to access and update their personal care record, to share information with their care team, and book appointments and order repeat prescriptions;

* faster and simpler access to a wider range of community based services such as minor ailments services and health checks in high-street pharmacies, walk-in services, and self-referral to physiotherapy or podiatry services for example;

* more online performance and quality information available on NHS Choices website to enable patients to compare GP and community health care services and view patient feedback;

* identifying those most at risk of ill-health and offering early interventions that help keep people healthy for longer, working with GPs to amend the Quality and Outcomes Framework to reflect this and providing stronger incentives for early intervention. High performing GPs will have greater freedoms to develop new services for their patients, working with other primary and community clinicians by reinvigorating practice based commissioning;

* piloting more joined up services to help people who want to return to work but are struggling with back problems, stress etc;

* increasing access to 'healthy living services' making it easier for GP practices to refer or point people towards walk in services that best meet their needs such as exercise classes, stop smoking support or help in managing stress;

* investing in new programmes of clinical leadership, innovation and high-quality training and giving primary care clinicians more control over budgets and personnel decisions; and

* transforming community health services to unlock the talents of the 250,000 nurses, health visitors, allied health professionals and other staff who play such a crucial role in providing personal care for children and families, older people and those with complex care needs. This will include adoption of new metrics which will allow community staff to demonstrate quality, and pulling together research evidence to help staff provide the best possible service.

Lord Ara Darzi's Next Stage Review of the NHS, 'High Quality Care For All' published on Monday set out proposals that will give patients more choice, and information, reward the hospitals and clinics that offer both the highest quality of care, and provide the most responsive services.

The report sets out plans that build on this progress and show how innovation and creativity of staff can further improve services. Changes will be driven not through top-down targets but by giving responsibility to the staff at local level.


1. Our Vision for Primary and Community Care is available on the Department of Health website at: guidance/dh_085937

2. The Next Stage Review Report, 'High Quality Care For All' is available on the Department of Health website:

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