Today I spent 2 hours learning. I attended a local event, the Bassetlaw Community and Voluntary Sector Forum. The room was full of people who run or volunteer for local charities, who provide a range of services for others and who look beyond their own lives on a daily basis.
The main speaker was excellent. Enthusiastic about the future, despite funding concerns, and stressing the importance of focusing on the passion behind the charity. 'Don't lose that original passion, focus on what you can deliver within your budget, and remember that when the funding stops, the thinking starts.'
I see a lot of patients who would benefit from a number of the services evident in the room. I found myself asking how often I consider whether I should signpost to the voluntary sector. I'm a GP commissioner, have been in the area for 10 years, and yet the answer is that I rarely look beyond NHS Services unless there is a clear pathway such as the local hospice or teenage drop in services. Why is this? Am I unusual? Probably not. Why would a patient with moderate mental health symptoms benefit more from a medical counselling model rather than contact and support with a local charity? How many elderly isolated patients are in contact with befriending schemes in the area?
I came away with two actions, discussed and agreed with those present. First, we need to increase awareness amongst clinicians. At the moment we have an alphabetical directory of local organisations. But we see patients with problems, with needs. I pledged to work with those present to develop a problem based directory, so that clinicians and patients can easily identify organisations who can help them with their needs or condition.
We also need to harness the innovation in the room. We have a lot of contact with the sector locally, but there were so many ideas in the room, so much awareness of service gaps for patients and opportunities for efficiency, that we must make it easier for charities to approach us.
I hope today has made me a better GP for my patients, and a better commissioner.