BRACE GP service research

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)-funded BRACE Rapid Evaluation Centre (which is led from HSMC) published its first two important reports at the end of 2020.

Entitled ‘Early implementation of primary care networks’ and ‘Hospitals managing general practice services: vertical integration’, both project teams completed their field work prior to the first lockdown (March 2020), and undertook analysis and writing up over the summer of 2020.

Resulting dissemination has included a number of virtual workshops with national primary care policy leads at NHS England and Improvement, and also the Welsh Government, NHS Providers, and our case study sites. Both study reports have had significant media coverage, featured in the Health Service Journal with blogs and comment pieces in the British Medical Journal, GP online and The British Journal of General Practice Life. Further dissemination work will include comparison of the findings with international experience of primary care collaborations, and presenting the implications of these evaluations at the Heath Services Research UK conference in July.

The Primary Care Networks study found these new networks had got off to a good start since their implementation in July 2019, have played a key role in the local response to the pandemic, and have potential to be effective for developing and extending primary care, but will need on-going support. BRACE's evaluation of hospitals managing general practice recruited three case study sites across England and Wales where GP practices would likely have had to close, had NHS hospitals and health boards not taken them over. The study revealed that this vertical integration of practices into hospitals offered the opportunity for better and more integrated care, where patients could consult not just GPs, but also a wider range of specialist health care professionals, for example those able to offer advice and care to people with complex diabetes or acute problems with joint pain. Phase 2 of this evaluation is planned for later in 2021 where the BRACE team will track the impact of this new approach to organising care, and in particular how it affects people living with complex long-term conditions.

For more information, contact BRACE Research Administrator Cathy Dakin on c.s.dakin@bham.ac.uk and see the BRACE website project pages for outputs.