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11.10.17

GP collaborations on the rise but ‘difficult to progress’

A study of 565 GP staff has found an increase in collaboration between GP-based responders.

The figures, provided by the Nuffield Trust and Royal College of GPs, show an increase to 81% of GP respondents confirming formal or informal collaborations compared to 75% in 2015.

The partnerships are generally created to increase access for patients, improve sustainability and shift services to the community, and 46% of them have existed for over two years.

But it is difficult to track the configuration of these collaborations as many practices are part of multiple agreements of different sizes, which can operate locally and at CCG levels – each with different aims and expectations.

Smaller groups (less than 100,000 registered patients) tended to focus on improving sustainability, staff experience and access, compared to larger associations which were more concentrated on improving access and integrating services into the community.

Despite the positive picture, the study found that only a fifth of GPs thought sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) would deliver meaningful change in primary care. Over half of surveyed employees also felt practices and collaborations had not been “at all influential” in shaping their local STP. 

CCG staff, however, were much more optimistic, with 61% of the 51 staff members surveyed reporting that meaningful change was probable.

Overall, the Nuffield Trust research argued that although collaboration has increased, many GP and CCG goals have been difficult to realise.

“The trend towards collaborative working has continued, but time and work pressures have made it difficult to progress, along with other barriers such as staff shortages, practice finances, and competing priorities (e.g. STPs),” the report explained.

“The aim of improving access was most often ‘fully achieved’ (relative to all other aims). Only around one-fifth of those who had partially or fully achieved that aim had received GP Access Funding, suggesting progress can be made without national funding.

“Other goals, however, such as improving sustainability, staff experience, clinical quality and patient engagement were more difficult to realise – more work is needed to understand what enablers could help collaborations make better progress.”

 Top image: Sturti

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