29 July 2014

Prevention Not Cure: Health on The High Street Key to NHS Survival According to New Report

A new cross-sector paper, We Are Primary Care, published today by a broad spectrum of primary care health professionals, urges the public and policy makers to look beyond general practice as the only alternative to hospital care. The paper highlights the political drive to address the extreme demand and fiscal pressure on the NHS by taking care out of hospital and into the community, but argues that this can only be successful if people have a clear understanding that GPs are not always the most appropriate first contact. It further argues that reducing demand is an imperative and that high street health specialists have a key role to play in tackling public health challenges like smoking and obesity.

The report includes new research from YouGov showing that people have little understanding of what is actually meant by ‘primary care’. 74% of people regard GP practices as providers of primary care but a relatively small percentage of people understand that community pharmacies (34%), optometrists (31%) or community hearing aid services (24%) are an integral part of primary care, despite the fact that they are responsible for more than 40% of the primary care budget.

Professor Robert Darracott, chief executive, Pharmacy Voice said: “We have to be radical in our thinking and our actions if the NHS is to survive in its current form. Reducing demand is an imperative, which can really only be achieved by reaching out to people who might not want to visit their GP but who need advice and support from a health care professional. 1.6 million people visit their community pharmacy every day, creating a real opportunity for us to dispense health as well as medicines, helping people stay well, and potentially resulting in billions saved in hospital admissions further down the line. Think of us as a gateway to proactive good health while general practice is a gateway to managing ill health.”

Dr Michael Dixon, chairman, NHS Alliance said: “Primary care isn’t, and shouldn’t be, all about general practice. Rather, primary care should be seen as a cohesive whole bringing together community pharmacy, community eye care and hearing services, dental practice and even providers of housing, emergency services and communities themselves alongside general practice. I fully support the notion of high street health hubs and think they have a vital role to play in supporting the NHS as we know it today.”

David Hewlett, chief executive of the National Community Hearing Association said: “We Are Primary Care is not just a statement of fact, it is a statement about the future. The whole of primary care needs to work with social care and housing providers, local government, emergency services, carers, volunteers and local communities to provide a flexible network of support to redesign and deliver services which help people live long, healthy, and independent lives in their communities. An ageing population needs access, empowerment and joined-up support. This is the only way the NHS can meet the challenges ahead.”

Katrina Venerus, on behalf of the Optical Confederation said: “The NHS must recognise and utilise the skills and expertise available across the whole of primary care if it is to meet the health needs of an ageing population in times of financial constraint. Community optical practices already play a key role in providing accessible sight tests to the population, however, optometrists and opticians can make a much greater contribution by delivering a range of community eye health services and other health messages. We know that attendance at hospital eye clinics accounts for 9% of all outpatient visits but many of these patients could be seen by optometrists in primary care if community services were more widely commissioned.”

To view the full report please click here

Notes to editors

*Survey 1: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,423 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 12th – 13th June 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

** Survey 2: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,742 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 10th – 11th June 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

We Are Primary Care (attached), launched today by Pharmacy Voice is a sequel to Who Do You Think We Are, and seeks to:

  • introduce and define contemporary primary care to the general public, encouraging them to use it for all but the most serious of conditions and emergencies;
  • look beyond general practice as the only alternative to hospital care;
  • highlight the vital role primary care has to play in supporting public health and the vital role public health has to play in sustaining an NHS that is free at the point of need;
  • present primary care’s view of itself as delivered to NHS England as part of its Call to Action consultation;
  • highlight the different ways in which much of primary and secondary care is funded: much of primary care – eg, general practice, on a per capita basis, secondary care largely by activity.

Pharmacy Voice (PV) represents community pharmacy owners with the principal aim of enabling community pharmacy to fulfil its potential in playing an expanded role as a healthcare provider of choice in medicines optimisation, long term conditions and public health. Its founder members are the Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies (AIMp), the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA). We represent the owners of over 11,500 community pharmacies. www.pharmacyvoice.com

The National Community Hearing Association (NCHA) represents community hearing providers in the UK. NCHA members are committed to good hearing for all and are responsible for the majority of adult community hearing care services in the UK with an excellent record of outcome, safety, and patient satisfaction. www.the-ncha.com

The Optical Confederation (OC) represents the 12,000 optometrists, the 6,000 dispensing opticians and 7,000 optical businesses in the UK who provide high quality and accessible eye care services to the whole population. The Confederation is a coalition of the five optical representative bodies: the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO); the Association of Contact Lens Manufacturers (ACLM); the Association of Optometrists (AOP); the Federation of Manufacturing Opticians (FMO) and the Federation of Opticians (FODO). As a Confederation, it works with others to improve eye health for the public good. www.opticalconfederation.org.uk

The NHS Alliance uniquely brings together clinicians of every kind, and managers and patients. It also brings together providers in primary care – whether they be general practice, NHS Trust, social enterprise or independent – all with a mission to improve and do their very best for each and every patient. Its strong values over the past fifteen years have given it the ear of government, while its tireless work in patient and public involvement has provided a voice for patients. This ethic extends from the NHS Alliance National Executive, who all give their time for free. Everyone in Alliance has a day job – that is its strength as the voice of the working frontline.