The NHS is faced with a growing demand from an increasing and ageing population, many of whom suffer with multiple morbidities. For many patients, this results in problems with timely access to general practice services, and is creating unprecedented pressures on the general practice workforce.
These problems are exacerbated by a shortfall in GP trainees, difficulty recruiting new partners and salaried doctors, and increasing numbers of GPs either retiring or reducing their hours. Morale is low and the numbers leaving are not being matched by recruitment.
There is a similar shortage of Practice Nurses, with the majority aged over 45, many of whom work part-time. A number are retiring early, and, like GPs, new staff are hard to recruit.
It is difficult for this traditional workforce of GP plus Practice Nurse to meet current demands and is unlikely it will meet future demand.
In light of these workforce pressures, Health Education England Wessex (HEEW) and Wessex Clinical Senate jointly commissioned the Wessex Primary Care Project, with project management provided by Wessex Academic Health Science Network (Wessex AHSN). The aims of the project were to:
A Project Board was set up to oversee the work, with representation from the sponsoring organisations and Wessex AHSN. In addition to the key deliverables above, they asked the project to answer the four key questions:
This project was concerned with solutions which will work within the current contractual model of independent GP partnerships - individually, within locality groups or as federations - as other projects (Vanguards, STPs) are looking at models across current contractual boundaries and we wished to complement, not duplicate, this work.
We quantified and found evidence about the problems facing general practice by looking at the key areas of population demographics, demand for services and the workforce. We surveyed and gathered information (via literature searches, internet searches, site visits, meetings, conferences) about examples of workload and capacity management through workflow, use of technology and use of other professionals working within general practice. We built contacts across Wessex with other projects (e.g. Vanguards), with CCGs, with Trusts, with wider workforce teams and with individual general practices, as well as within the Wessex and Thames Valley deaneries and the Wessex LMCs. We have pursued examples of innovation across the UK.
The key findings of the project and the software tools were launched in July 2017. You can find the summary report and (from late Autumn 2017) the full project report within the resources section on this page. The key findings are being integrated into Wessex AHSN's new Primary Care Collaborative workstream. Screenshots from the software tools are in the gallery area on the right of this page.
From July to October 2017, the software tools developed as a result of the project will be spread across Wessex via personal visits to practices and liaison with the primary care leads in the nine Wessex CCGs.
Highlights of the project include: