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NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens delivers the keynote at this year's Society for Academic Primary Care Annual Conference in Oxford.

Simon Stevens addresses the UK's academic primary care community in Oxford. © John Cairns
Simon Stevens addresses the UK's academic primary care community in Oxford.

Over 450 people from across the primary care community descended upon Oxford for the 44th Annual Conference of the Society for Academic Primary Care, which was hosted by the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences.

Taking place across three days, the conference provides a forum to share cutting-edge research, discuss the changing face of primary care, and foster new collaborations.

Keynote speakers included Bruce Guthrie, Rona Moss-Morris, Carolyn Chew-Graham and NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens.

In his speech on Wednesday 8 July, Simon Stevens stressed the importance of academic primary care in answering some of biggest challenges faced by the NHS.

Giving his overview of the role of primary care in the NHS future plan, his research priorities over the next 5-10 years included:

  • Early diagnosis of cancer
  • Obesity prevention
  • GP recruitment and retention
  • new models of consultation.
  • Mental health

“General practice is the indispensable ingredient in the NHS, but it needs to evolve,” he told a room packed full of academic GPs and researchers, saying their role as primary care researchers is going to be central to the task of reinvention.

Simon Stevens© John Cairns

Professor Richard Hobbs (Head of Department) with NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens and Professor Susan Jebb.

On cancer, he said with only 45% of people in 2013 getting a cancer diagnosis in stage 1 or 2, and so many of those people getting their diagnosis in secondary care, that practical insights are needed to solve the problem of late diagnosis and poor survival rates.

To tackle obesity, he suggested a combination of clinical and social programmes is needed, with a particular focus on the growing trend of childhood obesity and well-evidenced behavioural programmes to target type 2 diabetes.

Commenting on the changing business model of general practice and how research can inform new recruitment strategies, he said “We are seeing a shift from full-time to part-time, partnered to salaried, and more locums. We’ve got to recognise the great importance and commitment that the partnership model brings. There is a middle zone around providing flexible employment to support careers – the NHS needs to recognise this.”

He also talked about harnessing technology to transform the consultation while preserving the face-to-face encounter, and urged researchers to utilise patient records to speed up the creation of knowledge.

His final words before the lively Q&A were motivational: “There is nothing more important or a more exciting place to be over the next 5 – 10 years than where you all are.”


Next year's SAPC conference takes place in Dublin from 6-8 July.


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