Andrew Darke, managing director of property at Assura, comments on the trend for super-practices and what they mean for the future of the NHS
In this article, Andrew Darke, managing director of property at Assura, explains why super-practices could be the future for a struggling NHS
“As the spectrum of available primary care treatment evolves along with a growing patient base, so too does the demand for more time and attention from GPs.
A super-practice is designed with the survival of smaller community practices in mind, helping GPs meet the demand for an increased range of services and closer-to-home care from both patients’ and the NHS’s perspectives
The response to the requirements of a modern healthcare service has been the introduction of seven-day GP service, and the subsequent formation of what is termed a ‘super-practice’.
This title summons images of enormous surgeries engulfing the traditional cottage model, as smaller practices struggle to accommodate a swelling and aging patient base. However, the reality of the super-practice is in fact designed with the survival of smaller community practices in mind, helping GPs meet the demand for an increased range of services and closer-to-home care from both patients’ and the NHS’s perspectives.
The merger that we will likely see taking place is a virtual one, with improved connectivity between GPs providing a cybernetic extension of our local health communities, developing online clusters to help share expertise and nearby resources.
This requires a readiness from medical professionals to embrace the new technologies available, and to sustain a consistent relationship with their local counterparts. IT solutions will help progress conferencing, diagnoses and the move towards a paperless system, all of which will streamline services, improving and extending the level of care afforded patients. It also encourages GPs in one locality to build a strong virtual network that can serve as one entity, transferring patients to practices with the required facilities when appropriate, and identifying space for different patients when oversubscribed GPs are unable to make an appointment. In addition, it will enable increased access and extended hours with the super-practice sharing responsibility for covering the extended hours.
IT solutions will help progress conferencing, diagnoses and the move towards a paperless system, all of which will streamline services, improving and extending the level of care afforded patients
It makes sense that the natural evolution of the healthcare system is to expand and produce different clusters, all participating in a shared conversation that helps spread expertise, as well as the pressures of caring for a community. This, in turn, paves the way for premises funding that might otherwise have evaded smaller practices. When surgeries operate as part of a wider community web, the group is able to identify missing links and utilise the buying power of a collective power. They can also reap the benefit from possible savings in back-office costs by sharing the burden.
This means that, while it does appear that the traditional cottage model may soon become a thing of the past, there will be some practices saved and others combined, creating the integrated premises capable of providing advanced care resources.
When a community health network is working in communion with each of its practices, it can locate the potential for facilities that can accommodate both primary and secondary, as well as health and social care. This functioning as one entity will strengthen its influence, and a nerve centre can be created to support the smaller practices throughout a locality.
When surgeries operate as part of a wider community web, the group is able to identify missing links and utilise the buying power of a collective power
In the short to medium timeframe it is likely that by working in a federated model, the potential for merging into real super practices becomes more likely, invariably leading to the need for larger new premises, which is no bad thing when one looks at the current primary care estate. The end result will be a more efficient and cost-effective way of delivering primary care for the future without breaking the key relationship between the GP and their patient.
The key to successfully executing a transition to a super-practice is the creation of a professional conversation. We need to be in consistent, connected dialogue in order to produce a strengthened medical network.