Exciting times in Primary Care

Councillor Ricky Henderson, Chair of the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board, discusses the past couple of months which has seen some important developments in health and social care.

Our new Chief Officer, Judith Proctor, who took up the reins at the beginning of May has hit the ground running and the most recent meeting of the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (EIJB), there was collective endorsement for the Partnership’s Primary Care Improvement Plan. The plan, in response to the new GP contract introduced back in April, is an ambitious redesign of primary care services developed by the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership and GPs.

The plan is, in essence, a change in how services will be delivered. GPs will focus on their role as expert medical generalists meaning some tasks traditionally undertaken by GPs will be carried out by members of a wider multi-disciplinary team for example vaccination services. Other proposals that are being developed relate to pharmacy services, community treatment and care, and providing additional professional roles. Full of potential, this new way of working will require further engagement with communities and neighbourhoods, expansion of the Link Worker programme and developing new approaches to out of hours responses. The plan is wide ranging and one of several key strands of transformation work the Partnership is developing.

I am particularly enthusiastic about the Link Worker programme - an innovative way of working with people who have multiple and complex health and social care needs. Our Community Link Workers (CLWs) support patients to access a range of local, non-medical services and activities. Normally based within a GP practice, our CLWs work with patients over a period of time, offering support and enabling them to set goals and overcome barriers so that they can take greater control of their health and wellbeing. By having appointments/sessions that last longer than a GP consultation, the CLW supports people to identify problems and issues they are experiencing and then helps them access suitable community resources and services. This is a sterling example of integration in practice, with CLWs engaging with voluntary and statutory services to meet diverse social, emotional and practical needs.

Whilst it is no secret that we face substantial challenges in health and social care – I am confident in the Partnership’s plans to address these challenges and that their approach, which includes a shift towards preventative and early intervention activity. Work to tackle our immediate pressures is ongoing and this month we’ve seen further reduction in the backlog of assessments.

There is no quick fix for the challenges we face but these plans are a very big step forward towards a long term solution.

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