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by Stuart Gidden
13 October 2008

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Best of the best in Birmingham

I just don’t know where the time goes, writes Editor Stuart Gidden. Last Wednesday (8 October), the final MiP Event of 2008 took place at the Birmingham NEC, which included the very first MiP Awards ceremony. It doesn’t seem like long ago since we were first planning these awards, launched to celebrate excellence in practice management and across primary care teams.

Of course, we knew that we’d see examples of great patient service, as we knew of the dedication and hard work practice managers and their teams bring to their surgeries on a daily basis. Nevertheless, it was still a surprise to see the wide range of service innovation that is taking place across the UK.

From improving palliative care and access for disabled patients to redesigning practice premises specifically for the benefit of patients; from inspiring teamwork to deliver the best care to using IT technology to help monitor patients – in every aspect of general practice, it’s clear that staff are intent on delivering the highest standards for their patients. And they are achieving it.

This isn’t just my view – all of the expert judges I spoke to said how impressed they were with the calibre of all who entered these awards. As Jane Gamble, one of the judges in the finance category, said: “I truly marvel every day at the dedication and self-motivation of practice managers.”

The ceremony gave a really positive platform to your achievements, and it’s worth reminding ourselves – particularly at a time when general practice seems to be taken for granted, or worse castigated, by some of those in authority – of what general practice staff achieve each day.

So it was particularly appropriate that the keynote address, by Dr John Chisholm CBE, a vice president of the BMA and council member of the RCGP, urged practice teams to “tell the good story of general practice” – to make sure that the public are aware of the quality of service they have access to (click here to read the news story on this).

Patient information and communication was a key part of Dr Gillian Braunold’s update presentation on the Summary Care Record (SCR) and HealthSpace, especially since Connecting for Health announced, just a few weeks ago, that the patient consent model for the SCR has been revised following an evaluation of the programme (for the news story on this, click here).

Dr Braunold is the Clinical Director of the SCR and HealthSpace programmes, so delegates could hear about the new consent rules directly from the source. She explained that healthcare staff’s permission to view an SCR must be sought from the patient, and that CfH were making it much easier for patients to opt out. After addressing the new challenges for Caldicott Guardians, Dr Braunold discussed the progress of the early adopter PCTs ahead of plans for a national rollout of the SCR next year.

Another highlight of the Event was Kavita Oberoi’s presentation on maximising income streams in general practice. Kavita recently starred in an episode of Channel Four’s The Secret Millionaire, in which she went undercover in Ladywood, Birmingham to take part in a project aiming to improve opportunities for local teenage girls.

As the founder and managing director of Oberoi Consulting, a key IT solutions provider to primary care, Kavita has had a tremendous insight into how practices can improve their income through service redesign and improving Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) scores, and she shared her experience here.

She explained how Read code errors and flawed registers meant practices can lose out on QOF points – for instance, she knew of one surgery that had not allocated correct Read codes to 89 patients on the list. And in just one day, an examination of the list uncovered 30 patients who had not been added to disease prevalence figures. As she explained, practices can miss out on rewards for work that they’re already doing.

The Question Time-style panel session, always a highlight, did not disappoint, as a selection of experts, including Dr Chisholm and independent healthcare consultant Steve Williams, fielded questions from delegates and the session chair, Wendy Garcarz.

The first question – “Will there a place for small practices in the new order of general practice” – reflected the sense of trepidation among many following plans for polyclinics and the constant up-sizing of GP premises.

Dr Chisholm was upbeat, pointing out that the current chair of the BMA’s GPC, Dr Laurence Buckman, is himself a GP at a single-handed practice, “so he’s hardly going to roll over and let small practices be abolished”. He also said primary care development posed a challenge for larger surgeries: how can they deliver the same continuity of care that smaller practices do?

But ultimately, he cited a recent publication from the RCGP, which suggested “federations” or groups of practices working in partnership to provide a wider range of services to patients in their local community. “I think the future of small practices will be best defended by some element of co-operation with other practices,” said Dr Chisholm.

The spirit of co-operation – with managers networking and sharing experiences – was certainly alive at Birmingham. It’s a year until we’re back at the NEC, where the 2009 MiP Awards will be announced. It seems a long way off right now – but of course, doesn’t time fly?

Click here to see slides of all the speaker presentations from the Birmingham Event

Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

“The keynote speaker gave a clear and insightful presentation. I identified a number of areas in which practices should now be concentrating, not least learning new strategic management skills” – Name and address withheld