The focus of the NHS must fundamentally shift from acute care to primary care to survive, according to the NHS Alliance.

NHS Alliance chair Dr Michael Dixon said that the Department of Health must recognise primary care’s leading role at a time of economic instability.

“They need to work harder to re-engage frontline clinicians with the needs of the wider NHS, which go way beyond individual consultations with their patients,” he said in a speech at a seminar on the future of the NHS in London last week.

“This will only happen if the government is prepared to loosen its grip to allow a greater degree local accountability. Also, by encouraging local co-ownership, with patients as friendly critics, co-commissioners and co-providers will be able to work together to create a local health services that is much better suited to the needs of the local population.” 

The NHS Alliance believes that a sustainable NHS needs to move care closer to the patient and reduce the need for expensive technological care, he added.

“McKinsey’s has estimated that 40% of patients don’t need to be in hospital beds. So we need to ensure that secondary care is used appropriately,” said Dr Dixon. “We can only achieve that if we focus on primary care as an alternative provider of medical services.

“Although changes to general practice have often been prescribed, it is crucial that there is also organic change, which encourages the integration of different services and boost up the skills mix within practices,” he added.

Other speakers at the event agreed with Dr Dixon’s analysis. Director general of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry Dr Richard Barker said the govenrment had spent too much money on “big white buildings”.