Professor Martin Roland CBE, Emeritus Professor of Health Services Research at the University of Cambridge, used a career’s worth of research and insight to influence primary care policy. This included chairing a government commission on the primary care workforce and working hard to ensure that the Commission’s recommendations were effectively communicated to the relevant policymakers.
Primary care – which includes GP practices, dental practices, and community pharmacies – is estimated to account for 90% of patient contact with the NHS. It is widely recognised that high quality primary care is essential to running an effective and efficient healthcare system. GPs in particular deliver a critical service in addressing whole person care, diagnosing conditions, providing long term support for those with chronic conditions, and through immunisation and screening services. With a growing, and ageing, population as well as the increasing burden of chronic and sometimes multiple conditions, GPs have never been more important. As a recent Health Select Committee report noted, “[o]ur system is admired around the world for the quality and continuity of care it provides, and for its role in preventing ill health and reducing the pressure on more expensive acute and secondary care.”
Services are under incredible strain, yet investment in primary care has lagged behind investment in hospitals, with a year on year decrease in the proportion of NHS funding going to general practice in each of the last 10 years. Moreover, while demand for services is increasing, there is a struggle to recruit GPs, who now conduct around 370 million consultations with patients annually, an increase of 60 million from five years ago. Given the pressures they are under, there have been calls for a ‘new deal’ for GPs.
Influencing primary care policy
Professor Roland was a practising GP for 35 years, while also pursuing a career as a clinical academic. He was Professor of General Practice in Manchester before moving to the Chair in Health Services Research in Cambridge in 2009. His career in research, which spans over three decades and includes over 250 journal publications, has focused on the relationship between primary and secondary care and measuring improvements in quality in primary care. When the Secretary of State for Health commissioned Health Education England (HEE) to set up the Primary Care Workforce Commission in 2014, HEE asked Professor Roland to chair the Commission. The Commission’s report, which detailed innovative approaches to primary care that could help patients and the NHS, was published in July 2015 and included 38 key recommendations, many of which have since been endorsed and acted upon by national bodies, including most recently in NHS England’s General Practice Forward View (2016).
This case study is part of the new Public Health: Research into Policy pilot, which seeks to strengthen links between public health researchers at the University and policymakers. The pilot was launched by the Cambridge Institute of Public Health and the PublicHealth@Cambridge Network, and is overseen by a steering group including representatives from the Public Policy SRI and CSaP. Case studies are being added to the website throughout the lifespan of the pilot. For any enquiries related to the pilot, please do contact Lauren Milden, Public Health Policy Coordinator, via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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