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Monday 18 December 2017
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'We need more to happen in general practice', said Robert Varnam

Dr Robert Varnam said practices need to work differently and at scale

In the last 10 years, NHS England has been given more money but that was mostly going into hospitals, said head of General Practice Development Robert Varnam.

Speaking at the Management in Practice Conference in Birmingham yesterday (5 December), Dr Varnam, who has been a GP for the past 23 years, said that 'what patients need from doctors, including more complex care, need to come from practices'.

He said: 'Care and long-term conditions are more complex now. We need less to happen in hospitals and more to happen in general practice.'

Dr Varnam went on by saying that, although he initially feared general practices were 'missing the biggest opportunities', he finally felt reassured that the NHS has started to notice and introduce new elements. 

'I came from a position where I thought we might as well close up.

'Whereas now, there's actually opportunity for us to do more rather than just survive,' he said.

With the NHS about to turn 70, general practice is not the same as it was when it was first introduced.

'In 1948, general practice was beautifully simple, very small, totally medical and isolated.

'Isolation between GP practices and the NHS was significant. That is unrecognisable from what most practices are today,' said Dr Varnam.

Social prescribing, self-care, and support from a local community are among some of the actions that have been implemented.

'Sometimes people get innovative with online consultation or group consultation, for instance.

'It's hard to be resilient and it's hard to collaborate if you don't have local partnerships. We need to help practices working differently and this means working at scale,' said Dr Varnam.

Even if new changes were introduced with the General Practice Forward View (GPFV), Dr Varnam said that there is still a 'deficit between our demand and our opportunities and resources'.

He said: 'We need more money, workforce and better estate.

'But it's not all about money and workforce. Working differently is what's going to help us to improve.'