The way we access general practice is changing and much of this change is being enabled by the availability of new digital technologies. It means that patients have more ways to contact their GP practice, requests can be processed differently (for example, triaged), they may be contacted by a GP and other healthcare professionals and offered consultations in a variety of formats. This offers patient choice and convenience and breaks the 50-year-old ‘10-minute appointment’ model.
Substantial investment into tools and infrastructure was made across general practice during 2020/21 to enable patients to request an appointment and secure a consultation online during the Covid-19 pandemic. In response to the pandemic, surgeries rapidly deployed virtual consultation and triage solutions using these digital methods, so we know that digitally enabled primary care can support a proactive approach to managing population health. It can also better identify those who would benefit from more targeted support, including dedicated support to care home residents.
There is now a greater need to use digital tools and technology to ensure general practice can match demand for services and enable the best possible outcomes and experiences for patients.
Digital First Primary Care
The Digital First Primary Care (DFPC) programme is part of a national initiative to improve access to general practice. Maximising the use and adoption of digital technology across general practice is also a key aspect of the Greater Manchester 5-year primary care system plan – the Greater Manchester Primary Care Blueprint.
Greater Manchester is now an Integrated Care System (ICS) – a partnership of organisations that come together to plan and deliver joined up health and care services and improve the lives of people who live and work here. Our ICS is called Greater Manchester Integrated Care Partnership.
The Greater Manchester Integrated Care Partnership is coordinating a regional Digital First Primary Care (DFPC) programme to support general practice on a journey of digital transformation to:
- improve patient access to GP services enabling patients to have better access to their health information and promote prevention and self-care
- improve staff ways of working
- optimise capacity management in general practices and Primary Care Networks (PCNs)
The £4 million programme is in partnership with Health Innovation Manchester and Greater Manchester Primary Care Provider Board (PCB), one of the first primary care collaboratives in England.
Since 2021, the programme continues to understand the evolving digital landscape within general practice, this insight informs how change and improvements across Greater Manchester can improve citizen access and capacity management.
The programme has adopted a phased approach:
- Understand – Understand the current digital landscape within GM and identify issues, best practice and patient experience
- Reimagine – Design ‘what good looks like’ for using digital tools effectively and identify areas for improvement, based on insights from the Understand phase
- Implement – Identify priorities and codesign a delivery plan with localities, support change and adoption through training and communications and to support practices implement improvements. The programme is currently in the implementation phase and is aligned with the national GP improvement programme launched in June
Key highlights during 2022/23 included:
- extending the deployment of Primary Care Digital First Facilitators to support business change in general practices and PCNs
- delivering a proof of value pilot (the Lighthouse Project) and providing learnings, best practice and a toolkit for digital general practice and PCNs
- delivering training and learning to Digital Facilitators through the Academy, which is jointly provided by our partner Aqua
Effective utilisation of digital tools can improve efficiency and experience for the users and workforce of general practice, recognising that digital tools are not always the most appropriate interface for everyone in the population. GP providers, clinical colleagues and digital teams are currently working together to design digitally inclusive GP services to benefit citizens and the Greater Manchester system.
For more information, contact Kal Panchal, DFPC Programme Director; email@example.com.