Hunt to announce plan to cut GP bureaucracy and free up appointments

Millions of GP appointments could be freed up by a government plan to end immediately referrals from hospitals back to practices and introduce a single-stream payments system.

Jeremy Hunt: 'Too many obstacles in doctors' way'
Jeremy Hunt: 'Too many obstacles in doctors' way'

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt will set out plans later today to ‘empower patients’ with new ‘Ofsted-style’ ratings of local NHS services, and to reduce bureaucracy in general practice.

A new GP payment system will put an end to multiple income streams for practices.

Mr Hunt will say there are ‘too many obstacles in the way of doctors and nurses wanting to do the right thing’.

Ministers hope the plans will give two hours a week back to every GP, which could free up 15m appointments a year.

New measures being announced by Mr Hunt will immediately end ‘pointless referrals’ from hospitals back to GP practices, which account for around 2.5% of appointments.


GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul wrote to NHS commissioners last week warning that 14m GP appointments a year are wasted on re-referring patients who miss a hospital appointment.

The new GP single payments system will bring together all practice transactions, reducing the bureaucracy of chasing income from multiple organisations, and freeing up GP time. Earlier this year GPonline revealed that one in three GP practices have struggled with delayed payments for QOF, enhanced services, and other work they carry out.

The single payment system could see practices become paperless by 2018. The use of faxes for communication with hospitals will be ended.

From next June, a new system of Ofsted-style ratings will allow patients to see how their local health service is performing in key areas such as cancer, dementia, diabetes, mental health, learning disabilities and maternity care.

GP leaders welcomed plans to cut bureaucracy but warned the new ratings system may not improve services.

The CCG-level ratings will be verified by experts including the chief executive of Cancer Research UK Harpal Kumar, and the government’s Mental Health Taskforce chairman Paul Farmer.


Jeremy Hunt said: ‘This government believes in the NHS and its values – and we’re investing an extra £10bn to transform services during this parliament.

‘A key part of that transformation is building a more patient-focused culture.

‘We’ve made progress in creating a stronger partnership between doctor and patient, but we still put too many obstacles in the way of doctors and nurses wanting to do the right thing.'

He added: ‘By being more transparent than ever before about crucial services and freeing up more time for GPs to care, we really can make NHS patients the most powerful in the world.’

Dr Nagpaul last night welcomed the government’s plans to cut GP bureaucracy. ‘An estimated 4.5% of all GP consultations each year are spent rearranging hospital appointments,' he said. ‘This is a scandalous situation, which is denying ill patients access to GP services.’

‘This announcement is a step in the right direction, but we do need to make sure that the government also addresses the wider pressures on GP services.

'Much, if not all, of the £10bn in today’s announcement is urgently needed to ensure the maintenance of currently overstretched NHS services, not fund new initiatives, and many GP practices will continue to struggle without additional support.’


But Dr Nagpaul added: ‘We do not believe that simplistic Ofsted-style ratings will lead to any improvement in patient care or give an accurate picture of services in local areas.’

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said measures to cut bureaucracy were ‘encouraging’.

‘However, we question whether the introduction of Ofsted-style ratings systems for area health teams will improve patient care whilst there is no evidence that this does improve outcomes in a health setting.’

Dr Baker called on ministers to ensure new funding is targeted at general practice.

Mr Hunt will also announce that the government will act on the findings of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges’ report on clinical accountability, ensuring a named, responsible clinician for individual patients will be incorporated into planning guidance from next year.

In addition, NHS England will set out plans to increase choice in maternity and end of life care and the roll-out of personal budgets.

Photo: Pete Hill

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