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Liverpool GPs - future links with vol. groups

stethoscopeGPs and the voluntary sector in Liverpool

PSS arranged a meeting in Liverpool on 22/11/11 to discuss the results of a study arranged by local Voluntary, Community and Faith (VCF) groups. The groups got together to look at the ways that the new arrangements in the NHS might provide opportunities for VCF groups to work more closely with GPs in Liverpool. This is something that the Working Better partnership  that MDF is involved in has been taking a close interest in as well.

The continuing changes to the Health and Social Care Bill  mean that the new NHS arrangements are still far from clear, and there are many key people whose jobs and responsibilities are changing or are uncertain. That makes it difficult both to establish a firm strategy for VCF groups, but also to get people within the NHS – such as GPs – to make any firm commitments.

GP priorities are still involved in the new arrangements for commissioning clinical care and not with working with the voluntary sector (which currently only accounts for a very small part of NHS expenditure).

Some individual GPs are already expressing an interest in working with the sector. That’s both because of the economic advantages, and as a general move towards wider encouragement of positive well-being, instead of reacting to illness. (Whether that GP interest would last if they have to pay for the services that the VCF groups currently provide free to them is another matter)

But the sector can hardly afford to wait until the dust has settled on the NHS (if it ever does). Timing will be a significant issue. Working with the NHS is something that ideally might bring some income (in the future) to a sector, which is losing grants now.

Among the issues discussed were:

  • Quality – GPs need assurance that groups they work with (especially if they are going to be paying them) have appropriate levels of quality. Currently, many just use the simple criterion “is this VCF service funded by the NHS?” MDF can advise your group on the different quality measures that are available and appropriate to you.
  • Effectiveness – VCF groups must be able to demonstrate convincingly that their activities are cost-effective. If your group has any ways to gather that information, start doing it now (even if your grant provider doesn’t currently require it)
  • Referral protocols are arrangements setting out how GPs would pass patients to VCF groups and with what sort of information. These need clinical input from the start. One carefully constructed protocol – established jointly after long discussions and compromises between a number of VCF groups – was rejected at once by GPs. But waiting until GPs have time to get involved could be too late.
  • Information– some GPs have started to “map” the VCF services available in their own area, and Liverpool City Council’s online Family Services Directory is available for groups to upload their services. But there are a number of lists and directories around, and there is still probably not one dominant and trusted source. One way to maintain that trust is to make sure that any directory has the resources available so that it can be kept regularly up to date. Make sure the details of your organisation are kept up to date on any lists that you are in and update your contact details with MDF so that we can keep you informed.
  • Capacity – if some of the approaches that VCF groups had already made to GPs had actually worked (and very few had resulted in any increase in referrals), would the group have been able to cope with the demand? And what effect would a failure to cope have on the confidence of GPs in the whole sector
  • Tactics – is it best to approach GPs individually (which is hard work because of the numbers, the individual approach needed, and the difficulty of getting their attention) or through structures such as consortia or groups? But experience shows that convincing managers doesn’t always translate into convinced GPs. Perhaps focusing on one or more exemplar projects would be the most effective way?

 Further information on the Working Group from: Paul Clitheroe, PSS, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.