New five-year strategy for Sunderland's GP practices approved by health chiefs

Health bosses have rubber-stamped a new strategy which aims to “preserve and sustain” GP practices across Sunderland.

Picture c/o Pixabay
Picture c/o Pixabay

On July 23, the Governing Body of Sunderland’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) discussed the final draft of their GP plan for the next five years.

According to committee papers, practices across Sunderland face “significant challenges” around workforce, workload and delivering more out-of-hospital care.

In practice, the strategy aims to “ensure the sustainability of general practice” going forward.

The report reads: “With a growing and ageing population with complex, multiple health conditions, it is more important than ever that we preserve and sustain our practices to ensure they continue to deliver safe, effective and high quality care.”

There are currently 40 member practices across Sunderland which could benefit from the plan and its objectives.

These include improvements in training and retention of staff, removing duplication and bureaucracy, improving IT systems, an extra focus on prevention/self-care and better communication.

Key initiatives also cover a safeguarding hub for the city, strengthened mental health prevention, supporting practices wishing to merge, increased capacity and attracting more GP investment opportunities.

The strategy refresh follows on from a 2016 GP plan which set out the CCG’s vision to “deliver high-quality primary care and health outcomes for local people.”

To understand whether the refreshed strategy is working, health bosses will measure it against targets throughout its lifespan.

Governing Body member, Chris Macklin, said the new strategy prepared the Sunderland CCG for the future.

“I think it really shows how far we have moved from where we were, which is why we developed the strategy in the first place,” he told the meeting at Bede Tower.

“In 2015 Sunderland had 51 practices, I recall looking at CCGs with other similar populations and we were a massive outlier.

“The fact we’re now down to 40 it shows we have perhaps moved into the middle of the pack, I think the time was right to do the refresh.

“I think it positions the CCG and general practice hopefully to look to obtain and gain what is available in the future and to get the more sustainable practice in Sunderland.

“It builds on what was there and I think it demonstrates that we’re now well positioned to grasp the opportunities going forward.”

He added: “Had we not done the original strategy, we would have been significantly behind.

“The fewer amount of practices, I suspect, means we have much more sustainable business models in Sunderland than we did three years ago.”

Director of public health for Sunderland City Council, Gillian Gibson, welcomed schemes around health prevention in the strategy.

While clinical chairman of Sunderland CCG’s Governing Body, Dr Ian Pattison, credited colleagues for the amount of work that went into the strategy,

“We still have challenges, but it gives us a framework to sense where we put our investment and where we put our time and efforts to get the best outcome for patients and practices,” he added.

Five objectives in CCG GP Strategy 2019-2024

1)Supporting general practice to increase capacity and build the workforce

2) Improving patient access

3) Ensuring the central, co-ordinating role of general practice in delivering out-of-hospital care

4)Supporting better health through prevention and increasing patients’ capacity for self-care

5) Encouraging new working arrangements between practices