College chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said the health secretary and clinical leaders should take the ‘sensible decisions’ to free up GP time to focus on frontline patient care.
Mr Hunt said that NHS leaders would consider measures to temporarily release GP time to support urgent care work and continue the suspension of elective care.
Other measures to support trusts struggling to cope with demand could include rapid CQC reinspections to reopen beds and speeding up discharge.
Reports in The Guardian suggested that Mr Hunt would announce an extension of the QOF reporting period by a month to the end of April to release GP time. But that announcement was not included in the health secretary's Commons statement.
The DH has yet to clarify what measures could be taken to free up GP time, and what support GPs could be asked to provide to urgent care services.
Professor Stokes-Lampard said the plight of patients in parts of the NHS at the moment was ‘incredibly distressing’ and ‘whilst the focus of attention is hospitals, GPs are also working flat out to cope with the intense pressures during the winter period’.
‘The health secretary has acknowledged that we can’t continue as we are and we wait to hear further details of how his plans will be implemented, and how they will work on the ground for GPs and our teams and patients alike,' she said.
‘GPs are already preventing thousands of inappropriate hospital admissions every day. General practice is keeping the NHS afloat with a combination of professionalism, resilience and goodwill as we try to cram in more and more patient appointments, with demand exacerbated even further by the cold weather.
‘General practice has a history of emergency preparedness plans ready to activate in times of crisis, such as during flu pandemics. We urge the health secretary and clinical leaders to take sensible decisions based on those measures - such as temporary suspension of GP appraisals, QOF targets and CQC inspections - so that all of our time, expertise and effort is directed where it is needed most, at the frontline of patient care.’