Hunt plans contract change to hand out-of-hours duty to GPs

By Neil Roberts, 23 May 2013

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt will overhaul the GMS contract to enforce primary care reforms that will hand out-of-hours responsibility back to GPs.

Jeremy Hunt: contract change to hand GPs out-of-hours duty

Jeremy Hunt: contract change to hand GPs out-of-hours duty

In a heavily trailed speech at the King’s Fund in London, Mr Hunt said he wanted a return to ‘family doctoring’, and a move away from GPs as ‘gatekeepers'.

Mr Hunt acknowledged the need for more GPs.

GP practices, he said, should be responsible for ‘signing off’ that they are happy with the out-of-hours care provided for their patients on their list.

Asked if the changes would be made through contract changes, the secretary of state said: ‘I think the GP contract will be a part of those changes. But I don’t think it will be all about the GP contract, contrary to some reporting in the press.’

He said CCGs would play a critical leadership role in the reforms which include having named individuals responsible for patients’ care.

Patients must know ‘where the buck stops’, he said, and there must be ‘someone whose job it is to know how someone is, ensure good care is in place, and makes sure there is access to good advice both in and out of hours.’

Mr Hunt repeated his claim that the 2004 GMS contract was ‘a historic mistake’ and responsible for rising pressure on A&E.

He said the contract, which allowed GPs to opt out of out-of-hours responsibility, had ‘fatally undermined the link between GPs and their patients’.

‘At a stroke the need to think holistically about their patients' entire needs was removed,’ he said.

‘Although, to their enormous credit, many practices still make superhuman efforts to do this,' he added.

He said practices were remunerated not for looking after people as individuals, but for meeting targets.

Mr Hunt announced a new chief inspector of general practice at the CQC, who will make ‘clear, open and robust assessments’ of how well practices serve their patients.

The chief inspector will work alongside hospitals and social care inspectors to ensure an integrated service.

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