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Trailblazing GP to drive ‘joined up’ health and social care

12:00am | & Health

A leading doctor has been appointed to help spread NHS innovations designed to join up health and social care throughout England.

Dr Karen Kirkham (pictured), who runs a practice in Dorset and specialises in women’s health, will work with the wider GP community to spread tried and tested ‘innovation and transformation techniques’ across the country.

Dr Kirkham has been instrumental in setting up the trailblazing ‘Dorset Integrated Care System’. It has introduced a new approach to integrated care for patients, bringing together staff from local hospitals, community staff, general practice and the local authorities to pull the local health system together so it works in a more ‘joined-up’ way.

‘Virtual wards’ have led to a reduction in unplanned admissions to Dorset County Hospital and this same approach is starting to be seen across 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 as National Clinical Advisor for Primary Care with the NHS England transformation team, Dr Kirkham will visit places and learn about their innovations. She will also spread them to other areas, encouraging health professionals to adapt or ‘lift and shift’ the successful models and spread good practice.

Dr Kirkham (54), 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, setting up a fertility clinic, and holding a post as a specialty doctor in Genitourinary medicine for over 15 years.

In 2013 she became a GP commissioner and Locality Clinical Chairwoman with Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). Set up around the country, CCGs are doctor-led NHS bodies responsible for planning and commissioning health care services in their local area. Dr Kirkham took on a key leadership role and became Assistant Clinical Chairwoman for the CCG in 2015, leading on much of its innovative work in Dorset over the past three years.

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.

“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 Prof Nick Harding, a GP in Birmingham, who is a senior advisor to NHS England on general practice and integration, plus GPs Jo Bailey and Joe McManners who are also advisors.

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