Speaking in response to a story in the Sunday Telegraph, GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said GPs were already required to make home visits, including to care homes, but any enhanced requirement must not lead to GPs making ‘unnecessary visits’.
Quoting unnamed Whitehall sources, the newspaper reported that health secretary Jeremy Hunt would use the current GP contract negotiations to require ‘regular visits to nursing homes to check on elderly patients’.
It said: ‘Ministers want to impose a new legal duty on doctors to take responsibility for their patients’ care at evenings and weekends.’
The report came after Jeremy Hunt announced a £50m pilot for evening and weekend opening of surgeries, and recent announcements on putting named clinicians in charge of individual frail elderly patients.
Dr Nagpual said the latest reports ‘reflected the reality of what GPs do already’.
‘But if the idea is for new, enhanced levels of care for patients, they will need additional resources,' he added, because GPs were already overstretched.
‘It is important GPs use their time to meet patients needs. What we don't want is GPs making home visits unnecessarily to meet a new tick-box target,' he said, warning this would take GPs away from patients with the greatest health need.
The GPC was in the middle of contract negotiations with NHS Employers, ‘so we should be wary of political headlines’ and it would be premature to speculate about what will be in the contract, he added.
Dr Nagpaul rejected suggestions in the Sunday Telegraph that the BMA was seen by government as the ‘greatest obstacle to efforts to raise standards of general practice’ and that Jeremy Hunt was ‘ready for a direct confrontation’ with GP leaders.
‘I see no evidence of confrontation,' he said. ‘I don’t recognise that description’.
The GPC, he added, was fundamental to any change in the NHS as the voice of GPs on the ground. ‘The government recognises that the GPC will be fundamental in enabling GPs to meet future challenges.’
In a statement released by the BMA, Dr Nagpaul said: ‘GPs have been leading healthcare innovation for decades, including enhancing out of hours provision and delivering the personalised care that particularly older patients need.
‘Many GPs are already closely involved in treating millions of patients with chronic conditions in the community and on a daily basis undertake a large number of visits to care home residents as well as frail, housebound patients. Four out of ten GPs work regularly in out-of-hours care, while GP practices are undertaking an estimated 340 million consultations each year, up 40 million since 2010.’