Will The NHS Long Term Plan Help GPs To Encourage Self-Care In Patients?

As a community-based healthcare service, general practice is ideally placed for targeting healthcare on an individual level. Through putting the focus for health and wellness back on the patient, many more lives could be saved, while the pressures facing the NHS could be eased. Could the NHS Long Term Plan be what’s needed to help GPs encourage better self-care in patients?

Towards a healthier future

The King’s Fund has recently published a report titled A vision for population health: Towards a healthier future. This report looks at the future of health in the UK to improve the life expectancy that has now stalled after huge improvements over the last 100 years. It discusses the idea of ‘population health’, which focuses on improving physical and mental health outcomes by encouraging healthier lifestyles that line up with health outcomes experienced by the best countries in the world at the moment.

How can GPs encourage self-care in patients?

With winter in full swing, GPs have already been asked to encourage self-care in patients to help ease the pressures faced by the NHS at this time of year. However, it seems that a longer-term solution is needed to address the issue of poor health among the public, and to make sure that encouraging self-care continues to improve the future health of the nation.

The number of people seen by GPs for mental health issues, diabetes and heart disease is on the rise, but providing information and advice on making better lifestyle choices could help these conditions becoming a problem in the future. At present, GPs don’t have the resources to tackle these issues, which are caused by a range of factors including poor housing, takeaway culture, unhealthy school meals, to name but a few. As those placed within the community, GPs could be the answer to providing advice and services that tackle different lifestyles and behaviours, and it’s hoped that the Long Term Plan will address that.

It’s something that has already come to be expected by GPs, with community health being addressed in the RCGP competencies for becoming a GP. However, the reality of the role today is that GPs are facing increasing workloads as a result of lack of funding, meaning doctors spend their time working their way through the patient backlog instead of being able to offer these additional services which could prevent ill health.

A focus on preventative care

The NHS Long Term Plan puts a strong emphasis on ‘preventative care’, with primary care being tasked with helping to reach the Government’s target of increasing life expectancy by 2035. They hope that growing the workforce and holding on to more experienced GPs could help achieve their aims, but many GPs will argue that this isn’t possible.

Many GPs feel that there is a lack of capacity to prioritise this method of care, with no resources to take on and train additional staff. The main thrust of the argument is that until issues around staffing are resolved, GPs will be unable to take on new responsibilities unless plans for additional NHS funding are used in the right way.

Many GPs feel frustrated with the role, with many unclear about the long-term plan for general practice. The growing number of part-time GPs and those leaving the profession remains a cause for concern, but there are solutions available to GPs to stop them leaving the role altogether. There is a demand for out of hours GPs – a role that offers a different set of challenges and pace to typical GP hours. It could provide you with a solution to the frustration you may feel with general practice. You can find out more about the latest vacancies on our East Berkshire jobs page and discover what it’s like to work as an out of hours GP for EBPC by watching this video.