Give GPs a voice on schools and housing

The RCGP has called for GPs to broaden their work into housing and education to stop health inequalities.

It has stated that the 'inverse care law', which sees those most in need receive the least care, could only be rectified with an holistic approach, and that practice-based commissioning (PBC) could be used to achieve this.

The idea of GPs controlling housing budgets was broached by the NHS Confederation (GP, 18 March 2005), and has been backed by the Working in Partnership Programme (WiPP), a government White Paper advisory group.

WiPP chairman Chris Town said he would like to see a single budget across health and social care, with services commissioned through PBC, and that this is the 'direction we are heading in' (GP, 10 March).

RCGP chairman Dr Mayur Lakhani said: 'General practice has a strategic function, which includes housing. That does not mean that every GP will have a housing budget, but we have to influence the housing agenda.'

Dr Ken Aswani, the NHS Alliance's national professional executive committee lead and RCGP council member, said GP responsibility could include education.

'Households have multiple problems - working with education is powerful,' he said.

Professor Helen Lester, who works at the University of Birmingham and advises the quality framework review, said healthcare covered an increasing array of complex social matters.

She said that GPs were not 'gatekeepers' but 'station masters who made sure the trains went to the right station', whether the destination was health, social care or housing.

edward.davies@haynet.com.

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