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NHS England steps up efforts to boost integration of health and social care

It has appointed a specialist senior GP to help spread innovation across the country

Caroline White

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

NHS England has stepped up efforts to facilitate the integration of health and social care with the appointment of a specialist GP who will help spread innovation across the NHS.

Dr Karen Kirkham, who runs a practice in Dorset and specialises in women’s health, has become the national clinical advisor for primary care with the NHS England transformation team.

She will work with the wider community of GPs to spread tried and tested innovation and transformation techniques across the country.

Dr Kirkham had a key role in setting up the Dorset Integrated Care System which brings together staff from across health and social care, says NHS England.

“Virtual wards” have led to a reduction in unplanned admissions to Dorset County Hospital, the lowest rate of the three acute trusts in the county: doctors, nurses, social care staff, physios and others in West Dorset discuss patients who are put on a rolling “virtual” list each week if thought to be at risk of hospital admission.

In her new role Dr Kirkham will visit areas to learn about their innovations and will then take these ideas elsewhere, encouraging health professionals to adapt or “lift and shift” the successful models and spread good practice, says NHS England.

Dr Kirkham, who trained at Middlesex Hospital Medical School, London, has been a GP for 25 years and is now senior partner in a large town centre training practice.

She has combined general practice with many areas of women’s health, including complex contraception and setting up a fertility clinic. She has been a specialty doctor in genitourinary medicine for over 15 years.

With the advent of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in 2013, she became a GP commissioner and locality clinical chair with Dorset CCG. She became assistant clinical chair for the CCG in 2015, leading on much of the reconfiguration and redesign work in Dorset over the past three years.

She is now part of the leadership team in Dorset and is the clinical lead for the Dorset Integrated Care System (ICS).

She said: “I’m passionate about doing things differently and in Dorset already we’ve shown how by using new models of care can we make the patient experience so much better.

“I’m committed to strengthening primary care as the foundation of the NHS and I have a strong interest in integrating health and care services across the system. As part of this new role I want to ensure high quality and sustainable general practice as a fundamental building block within ICS’ and develop population health analytics and management systems to provide the basis for intelligent decision making.”

She added: “This is all about the patients. Our patients are changing and the NHS needs to adapt as well. To sustain us for the future we need to transform what we do so that we’re providing what people need. I want to ensure that the founding principles on which the NHS was built are maintained but also that the NHS modernises and becomes once again a world leader in best health and care outcomes.”

Dr Kirkham will join Professor Nick Harding, a GP in Birmingham, who is a senior advisor to NHS England on general practice and integration, as well as GPs Jo Bailey and Joe McManners who are also advisors.

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