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Prof Maureen Baker, former Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) was speaking to the Medical Independent (MI) on the eve of her presentation at the recent Primary Care Partnership Conference in Croke Park, Dublin. Prof Baker spoke to conference delegates about lessons that primary care workers in Ireland can learn form the UK.
Prof Baker played a leading role in a campaign to highlight the need for primary care funding in the UK, as Chair of the RCGP during 2013/14. She said that, in the previous decade, funding for primary care had decreased as a proportion of the NHS budget. However, the RCGP led a campaign that could have lessons for those wanting to promote greater resources and funding for primary care in Ireland.
“So the service [primary care] that needed funding most to meet the changes in population and the pattern of disease was the service in the UK that we run down,” Prof Baker told MI.
“When I was Chair of the RCGP, we mounted a campaign to make the case — to the public first and foremost and then to the government. That campaign was really very successful.”
It resulted in the publication of the General Practice Forward View, which is a pledge from NHS England to restore funding to general practice to the extent of an additional recurrent £2.4 billion per year by 2020/21.
The campaign began with the public before moving towards policy-makers.
“There were different phases. We went first to the general public in terms of letting people know that their GP service was under significant threat, with practices closing, not enough GPs and difficulty in access,” said Prof Baker.
“Also, MPs are getting this message from their constituents all the time. [But to MPs] we also back it up with the economic arguments and produced a number of documents that made more of an economic case for investment.”
Prof Baker added that “medical generalism and general practice” in both the UK and Ireland are an “increasingly important foundation for any health service” because of the increase in multi-morbidity, multi-chronic conditions and an ageing population.