Timescale for major GP inquiry 'inadequate and unrealistic'

Health watchdog Monitor's one-month deadline for responses to a major consultation on general practice is 'inadequate and unrealistic', GP leaders have warned.

Monitor chief executive David Bennett
Monitor chief executive David Bennett

Access to GP services - set to be a key issue in negotiations over the 2014/15 GP contract - and barriers to 'new models of primary care' will be at the heart of a review based on the consultation.

But LMC leaders have warned that the short notice period for responses on such key issues for the profession was 'concerning'. The consultation opened on 1 July and will close on 1 August.

A response from Leeds LMC said: 'The consultation period of just one month, which also coincides with the main holiday period in England, is felt to be totally inadequate and unrealistic. Evidence takes time to assemble. Prior to receiving their committee papers from the LMC, not one of our GP members was even aware that this review was taking place. This is most concerning.'

The Leeds response said the consultation should begin from the perspective that general practice's 300m patient contacts each year represent 'excellent value for money'.

'The consultation should question why general practice is so underfunded and whether this is related to competing pressures elsewhere within healthcare arrangements that have not been addressed,' the response said.

Leeds LMC warns against widening access into weekends and evenings at the expense of core-hours provision. 'The risk of spreading existing services more thinly over a wider range of hours is that it would lead to a reduction in the overall quality of care and limit choice by reducing the availability of GPs that patients want to see during core hours,' the LMC warned.

The Leeds response also warned that investment in general practice is failing to follow the shift of work out of hospitals and that premises developments have stalled following NHS reforms.

It added that time-limited APMS deals did not encourage long-term investment in services and that the small-scale GP bidders for contracts were not operating on a level playing field with large corporations.

A spokesman for Monitor said it had received over 40 responses to the consultation: 'At the end of June we put out a call for evidence to inform our early thinking into the commissioning and provision of GP services. In advance of the 1 August deadline, we’ve already received over forty responses from organisations.

'Before the end of the year we plan to publish a summary of issues raised during the call for evidence. Between now and then, we’ll be holding face-to-face interviews and roundtables with patients, GPs and commissioners to further understand issues raised in written submissions. While we are happy to take further evidence over the summer, we set a deadline to enable the early responses to help focus our work. The summary paper we release later this year will indicate if and when we take this work forward.'

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

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