Well, here we are in the first month of a brand new year. We have coped with another season of hard work with a recession (it's official), and a high incidence of flu-like illness, which has not only affected the patients but has had a huge impact on staffing levels during December. Many practices have had to cope with low staff levels and more patient contact; requests for home visits have increased, with lots of patients hoping for a quick cure for the dreaded "bug".
So we begin the new year with staff coping under difficult circumstances, staff shortages and high workloads; with staff who are themselves feeling below par, but are still providing an exceptional service to patients (there cannot be many practices who did not receive biscuits, mince pies and cakes from grateful patients over the festive period).
But what else will this year bring to primary care? Will the recession bring greater numbers to the surgery doors as patients lose jobs and income? What effect will this have on their health?
Over the next 11 weeks, all staff – clinical and nonclinical – will work to ensure targets are met to the highest possible percentage. Most practices will be ensuring that changes to the guidelines have been incorporated, that the correct codes are being used and that information that may be "hidden" in hospital letters and notes are found and added to the clinical system.
There is also the square root issue to add to the melting pot, and practices will need to ensure the practice and local prevalence figures are compatible. Monies will need to be monitored tightly to ensure practices receive their full rewards.
In Wales, services for patients with vascular disease are to be reviewed. The findings of the research, headed by Professor Julian Halcox, are to be announced in July. It seems logical that more monitoring and preventative measures will no doubt filter through to primary care – regular checks for patients will be needed to support improvement. Patients will benefit from the local service that their GP can provide.
2009 may be tougher than usual, but tough times are nothing new to primary care. Practice managers need to be alert and remain ahead of the game. Liaise with your primary care organisations, get the information you need as early as possible for strategic planning purposes. Talk with other managers, share your knowledge and skills; support each other through the maze of change. Each new year has brought change to primary care, and those changes have been incorporated into today's practice.
This year will be another year of change. Good luck and Happy New Year!
Related story: Welsh plans to prevent and manage vascular disease