Exclusive: Health minister urges GPs to work more efficiently to open seven days

Health minister Lord Howe has urged GPs concerned about the lack of resources to provide seven-day services to work more efficiently.

Lord Howe: 'The ability to share data and patient records can free up time wasted on duplication of paperwork.' Pic: Jason Heath Lancy

Lord Howe's comments came as he answered questions submitted by GP readers in an exclusive chat on social media website Tumblr.

Former GPC negotiator Dr Mary Church asked whether he accepted that there were not enough doctors and support staff to provide a seven-day service without dumbing down the current five-day offering.

Lord Howe wrote: ‘I know there is variation across the country and improvements still need to be made in some areas so practices can work more efficiently. This will increase the amount of free time available to GPs.

‘For example, issues like the ability to share data and patient records can free up time wasted on duplication of paperwork. We also need a close focus on skill mix to make sure GPs are being supported a range of professionals.’

Elsewhere Lord Howe gave his backing to the future of the QOF and the independent contractor nature of general practice.

An anonymous GP asked: ‘Given that the QOF reduces by almost 40% next year, should it be axed soon with funding recycled into practices' global sums?’

Lord Howe responded: ‘There are no plans to remove QOF, we are retiring some indicators which we think are no longer necessary. This will help free up more time for GPs so they can offer better, more personalised care for their patients.

‘We want to see care standards improve so it is important that we measure outcomes and can learn and make progress from the results. NHS England is working to develop a greater focus on outcome measures, looking across the whole system.’

Dr Darren Kilroy asked: ‘Can the true extent of required community care reform be realised within a system of self-employed GPs?’

Lord Howe wrote: ‘I absolutely believe in GPs remaining as self-employed contractors. We know GPs are best placed to understand the health care that their local populations need. However, to fully meet the breadth of people’s health and wellbeing needs, they will have to work in a more joined up way with other professionals and services.’

Read the full transcript below. Thank you for all the questions submitted. Lord Howe wasn’t able to answer all of them during his hour-long live Q&A but they were much appreciated. Is there someone else you would like to have a live Q&A with? Email acting GP editor Neil Durham at neil.durham@haymarket.com

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