After listening to a recent podcast by Ockham Healthcare - a leading think tank that promotes best practice and new ways of working within general practice - it prompted me to reflect upon the effect that the new generation of ‘millennial’ GPs and patients are having on primary care and the NHS.
For those unaware, 'millennials' are those born between 1981 and 1996 who reached adulthood around the turn of the 21st Century.
Unsurprisingly, their mindset and ways of working are very different to older generations and we must make sure that as an organisation with adapt accordingly and respond to their needs.
Take the current generation of GPs as an example. As the number of GP partners dwindle, a new group is emerging. With a desire to work flexibly, with autonomy and in a way that suits them and allows a decent work-life balance, the new generation is attracted to locum roles as the main way of achieving their aims. This is because the traditional partner or salaried role is too fixed and prescriptive to allow the flexibility desired.
Some practices offer flexible salaried roles to fit around childcare and holidays, but with a need to be open 8am-6.30pm five days a week,along with extended hours, it's hard for small practices to cover these times if GPs wish to restrict their hours to suit their personal situation.
At the same time, millennial patients, brought up on a diet of immediate customer service and the use of technology to get instant answers, information or products, are expecting a level of service that traditional practices can struggle to achieve.
The recent national survey of GP surgeries continues to show excellent trust in GPs and primary care staff, and great care (even more so in Suffolk than nationally!) but what has fallen again is access to surgeries by phone and online.
Looking at the wider picture, private entities continue to expand, with technology catering to the millennial generation, and the slightly older but tech savvy generation above.
New Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (who is also West Suffolk’s MP) Matthew Hancock is a patient at Babylon’s controversial 'GP at Hand' practice in London - offering video consultations within two hours and face to face in 24.
Comparing this service to a routine three week wait in some surgeries, it's not hard to see why some patients would find it attractive. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help the older patients with multiple-conditions for whom continuity of care is key.
So before we lose our less complex millennial patients to private tech-savvy practices we need to think about how working collaboratively we can knit together the traditional family doctor role that's so important to our patients (and proven to improve life expectancy) with the customer service and technology expected by a new generation needing advice and support 'on the go'. Maybe the new millennial GPs are the ones to set up and provide the care to their millennial peers?