Contract crackdown on hospitals wasting millions of GP appointments

GP leaders have welcomed an update to the standard NHS contract that aims to crack down on hospitals dumping work on practices and save millions of appointments a year.

Changes to the contract introduced from 1 April aim to prevent hospitals transferring responsibility for providing fit notes, medication or answering patient queries to GP practices.

The update follows changes last year that bar hospitals from forcing GPs to re-refer patients who miss appointments, aim to make hospitals communicate test results directly to patients and mean patients can be referred on to other departments within a hospital rather than having to go back to their GP.

The BMA has produced template letters to help practices challenge work transferred to them unfairly, and to report contract breaches by hospitals to their local CCG.

GP workload

Despite reforms introduced as part of last year's NHS standard contract, the BMA warned in September 2016 that NHS managers in many parts of England had simply failed to enforce rules meant to protect practices from hospitals dumping work on them.

Polling by GPonline in August last year also found that around three quarters of GPs reported local hospitals were breaching rules meant to prevent unnecessary appointments in primary care.

Work transferred unfairly to GP practices across England wastes around 15m appointments a year, the BMA has warned.

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: 'GP practices have for far too long had to cope with poor communication and unnecessary bureaucratic workload being directed to them from hospital managers. At a time when general practice is at breaking point from rising patient demand, stagnant budgets and staff shortages, we cannot afford GPs and their staff to be dealing with work that could easily be undertaken by the administrative wing of secondary care.

GP appointments

'Millions of GP appointments are wasted each year due to patients being told to see their GP to chase up hospital appointments, investigations, and queries regarding their care in hospitals.'

Dr Nagpaul said contract changes implemented by the government showed it had listened to BMA demands.

'These new requirements aim to reverse a culture spanning decades, of secondary care passing on inappropriate workload and bureaucratic demands on GP practices. It is a reflection of the success of our lobbying that the GP Forward View dedicated 10 pages to this issue and clearly articulated the  need to enable GPs to spend their time on what they should be doing: delivering care to their patients.'

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