General practice has for some years been facing increasingly testing times at a local level. The challenges of a baby boom; an expanding and ageing population and growing numbers of people facing mental health issues all mean that something has to change. If it doesn’t, then quite simply, patients will not get the care that they need and deserve.
For many years, general practice has been delivered to patients in a cottage industry style format. In other words, GP practices of varying sizes providing a range of first-contact patient care. Whilst these services are generally valued by patients, the fact that they are traditionally a challenge to access when they are needed most means the model is flawed. Add to this the increasing workload pressures on GPs as well as budget cuts, and it is clear to see that something has to change.
In response to this need for change, and with the backing of NHS England and its Five Year Forward View, more and more GP practices are making a move into collaborative alliances known as GP networks, joint ventures or federations.
What is a GP network?
The collaborative allegiances are formed by the coming together of between three and five local practices from the same locality. With national funding available to set up the networks and assist with staffing and premises, NHS England says that eventually this will become the ‘ordinary way to do business’.
The GP network will become part of a wider ‘local care network’ which also includes mental health and community services; social care; housing and voluntary services, all managed by an integrated leadership team.
Local care networks bring together GPs with other medical, health and care professionals, providing a single health and care system for each locality. The networks are able to share mental health, community nursing and clinical pharmacy teams as well as pool responsibility for urgent care and extended access, and at the same time grow diagnostic facilities.
How do GP and Local Care Networks Benefit the GP Practice?
One of the overall aims of the networks is to free up GPs so that they are better able to focus on complex care. Other key benefits include improved access for individual practices to staff, technology, premises and equipment and other such resources.
Scaling up to network status should better equip practices to support patients in managing their own health and well-being, something that is difficult to do as a smaller, independent entity. Self-management support is particularly crucial for patients with long-term conditions: a group that represents a significant proportion of GP practice workload.
GP Dr Arvind Madan, director of primary care for NHS England, commented that the networks will, “…aim to provide economies of scale, collective resilience, neighbourhood multidisciplinary teams, and joint recruitment,” and that the plans will not force individual practices to lose their independence – “They can still operate as [four or five] different units as practices” – he said.
How do GP and Local Care Networks Benefit Patients?
Because GP networks, and the wider local care networks they are part, of bring together a locality’s health and social care providers, they help to develop and transform the services for the population they serve.
For patients, this translates as improved quality, community-based services taking a preventative and proactive approach to care. With access to a wider range of services and resources, including urgent care, out-of-hours care and care in the community; more focused GP time and greater self-management support, patients can continue to enjoy the value and reassurance they currently get from their GP, but at a vastly improved level and with greater strength and resilience, which means much enhanced continuity of care.
NHS Website Design for GP Network Groups
If you run a practice that is about to form a GP network, you will no doubt be considering ways of promoting the allegiance and expressing the benefits of the new coming together to your patients, and those of your fellow network practices.
A custom designed GP network website will provide you with a platform from which to communicate these benefits. It will present a strengthened, added-value and much more reassured offering to patients who will be able to discover, at a glance, how to access the enriched range of services they now have access to. However, it is important that the individual GP website is not overlooked.
GP websites for individual practices are incredibly important for many reasons. If you’ve read our previous article, Why Every GP Surgery Needs a Website, then you will be aware of the fact that six in ten people seek medical information online, and 90 per cent use the internet to improve their health related knowledge.
As we discussed, patients appreciate the simplicity and convenience of managing their healthcare needs online, and a GP website is crucial for patient signposting and self-care. GP websites help to boost practice efficiency; they help educate patients; enhance the practice reputation and get it found online and act as an excellent health care resource.
For these reasons, it is important that the GP practice has its own website. Patients must at all times feel valued and enjoy a sense of familiarity, which they will get from their own GP website.
Tree View Designs offers an NHS website design service for GP network groups AND individual GP practices. We strongly believe that the GP network website should run alongside and link out to the GP websites of the individual network members, so that patients do not lose that important sense of familiarity and reassurance.
The main GP network website will carry out the important task of communicating the benefits of the allegiance, whilst the individual GP website will show the patient that they still have access to their regular surgery and all they have come to appreciate about it.
How Tree View Designs can Assist GP Networks
Tree View Designs is a team of dedicated professionals working in the heart of the NHS, specialising in GP websites, branding and NHS website design. With more than 15 years’ experience working within Primary Care and over a decade working alongside practice staff and patients, we are able to offer a unique and in-depth level of understanding of the challenges and needs of both practice and patients.
It is clear to see that competition is growing at an alarming rate. To achieve an edge, practices and networks both need well designed and structured websites; websites that are unique, address patient needs and reduce administrative burdens; that are smartly branded and instantly recognisable by patients, yet offer excellent value and are competitively priced to fit in with budgetary restraints.
At Tree View Designs, we have been closely monitoring the transformation of the GP practices we work with into GP networks and have been assisting those practices in delivering GP websites and branding that meet every one of these aforementioned requirements.
To discuss your individual GP network NHS website design needs, get in touch with Tree View Designs today.