Care of vulnerable must be mandatory

The care of vulnerable groups, such as the homeless, should become a mandatory part of commissioning standards under the White Paper reforms.

Dr Taylor: few GP registrars work in deprived areas
Dr Taylor: few GP registrars work in deprived areas

A meeting of senior figures from the RCGP and DoH at the RCGP's annual conference in Yorkshire last week called for the new NHS Commissioning Board and GP consortia to focus on socially excluded groups.

They said that despite good work being done in parts of the NHS to reach cases such as sex workers and patients with learning disabilities, there needed to be a major change of attitudes.

Jill Matthews, national implementation director for primary care and community services at the DoH, said the White Paper was a huge opportunity for the inclusivity agenda.

'The commissioning board and consortia need to be clear about their ambition, and truly embody the idea that no-one should be left behind. We have to actively seek out those that cannot find us and ensure that our services change to meet those needs in the way they deliver, act and respond.'

Professor Helen Lester, chairman of the RCGP's Clinical Innovation and Research Centre, has worked with homeless patients for 20 years. She said services for excluded groups had to be brought in to mainstream care.

'Let's not just sit around talking about how terrible it all is. Let's require in commissioning that these people come in through the same front door of the building and see the same doctor as everyone else, for the same time or even more time as they have complex needs.'

The RCGP's First5 CPD fellow Dr Clare Taylor said few GP registrars had experience of working with groups in deprived areas.

'If this is a priority for the profession and every GP needs to be looking out for it, the only way to do that is through professional development.'

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