Extended public health role for GPs will not be funded, minister warns

GPs should be prepared to offer public health services for free, a health minister has said.

Ms Milton: free health services (Photograph: Nathan Clarke)
Ms Milton: free health services (Photograph: Nathan Clarke)

Public health minister Anne Milton told a King's Fund event that GPs should offer public health interventions without additional incentives.

She told GPs that, 'even though we're not paying you for this', they should spend time in consultations pursuing brief interventions for public health measures, such as smoking cessation or obesity, alongside regular patient advice.

'It's a sad state of affairs that the only things that happen are those we pay for,' she said.

The comments came after Anna Dixon, head of policy at The King's Fund, had warned that without sufficient incentives, public health measures would get 'squeezed out' of priorities in primary care.

It was important incentives were right to 'seize the opportunity' to boost public health, Ms Dixon said. Incentives, such as QOF, showed that you 'get what you pay for', she added.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'As part of almost every consultation GPs offer tailored health promotion advice - this is part of what being a GP or practice nurse is all about. It is, though, for public health to look at doing this on a population-wide basis.'

Ms Milton, a former district nurse, said the public health White Paper due this autumn was a 'once in a lifetime' opportunity. She acknowledged that GPs do not see public health as their 'default' mindset and said efforts would be made to avoid pushing significant extra workload onto them.

Fat or obese?

Public health minister Anne Milton has said health professionals should call patients 'fat' rather than 'obese' to motivate them to lose weight. Ms Milton, who stressed she was speaking in a personal capacity, told BBC News: 'If I look in the mirror and think I am obese, I am less worried (than) if I think I am fat.'

RCGP chairman Professor Steve Field agreed. 'The term obese medicalises the state. It makes it a third person issue. We need to sometimes be more brutal and honest.'

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