In the latest report on reconfiguring services, Dr David Colin-Thome, the National Director for Primary Care, makes the clinical case for expanding the services provided by GPs, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and other key staff in the community.
According to Dr Colin-Thome: "The traditional relationship between patients and GPs isn't going to change but the services patients are offered will be unrecognisable in ten years' time."
Dr Colin-Thome's new paper, Keeping it Personal, illustrates remarkable developments by GP practices who are providing specialist services, running community hospitals, providing intermediate care, and delivering enhanced services that make sure patients get early treatment before their condition has deteriorated to the point where they need to be admitted to hospital.
He wants family doctors with specialist skills to handle more minor operations and take responsibility for the traditional six-week postsurgery check-up from hospital consultants. He also believes that more GPs could work from one-stop health centres so patients can get follow-up treatment and tests in a single visit. Pharmacists should take on a wider role and become even more of an invaluable contact point for patients.
The report is line with government reforms to bring care closer to patients and service users.
The NHS Alliance supports Dr Colin-Thome's vision. NHS Alliance chairman Dr Michael Dixon said: "The vision that we share with the National Director for Primary Care is about extending services so that patients can be diagnosed and treated more quickly, more conveniently and closer to home.
"That is an urgent economic and moral priority if we are to create a cost-effective NHS that provides equal access to care and health for all its patients. Health service managers, GPs and all those who want to see success should take note of this carefully reasoned and forward-looking piece of work."