Monitor to probe GP access and 'new models of primary care'

GP access and barriers to 'new models of primary care' will be probed as a part of a wide-ranging review of general practice in England, launched by health regulator Monitor on Monday.

David Bennett: Monitor to review GP access
David Bennett: Monitor to review GP access

Preliminary findings from Monitor’s review of primary care are due to be published in the autumn, before contract negotiations between the GPC and the DH are expected to finish.

Monitor said it will ‘examine the commissioning and provision of GP services’ to find out if there are barriers preventing patients from ‘securing access to the best possible care’.

The regulator said the review will focus on ‘patients’ ability to access GP services, including their ability to switch practices’. It will also look at ‘the ability for new or existing providers of GP services to develop the scope of the NHS services they offer, including new locations’.

It will also investigate ‘new models of primary care that local health communities are planning or considering and the potential barriers to these being implemented’.

The GPC said the review was unnecessary bureaucracy and called on the government to invest in general practice to improve GP access.

GPC member Dr Beth McCarron-Nash said: ‘I get very disheartened at yet another review. The issues we have with access are because we have had under-investment in GMS for years.

‘We should be celebrating that we continue to deliver despite this underinvestment.

‘All we are hearing about, is changes to the contract and alternative providers. We don’t need alternative providers, we need to invest in the providers we have.

‘Access will get worse as a result of the government’s contract imposition.

‘If give want to improve access they need to invest.’

The former GPC negotiator said this year’s contract negotiations are going to be ‘extremely tough’ because the government wants to change the contract to introduce changes to out-of-hours and GP access.

Dr David Bennett, chief executive at Monitor, said the review was an opportunity for Monitor to learn about any barriers preventing GPs from ‘delivering what is best for patients’.

‘For many patients, GPs are the first port of call when they access NHS services and general practice has a significant impact on the wider heath sector,’ he said.

‘People want a good service from their GPs, they want to be able to see their regular doctor at times that suit them and they want to be able to make informed choices about their health care.'

A spokesman for Monitor denied that it was told by the government to widen its review to include GP access. The regulator announced in March that it was going to review primary care, to investigate whether variations in GP contracts and potential conflicts of interest are acting against the best interests of patients. It also said it would consider whether patients have enough choice over which GP practice they attend, and the extent to which GPs offer patients choice at the point of referral.

The spokesman confirmed that Monitor will still look at these issues as part of the review.

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