GPs face more scrutiny under 'mandate' to improve care

Patients must be allowed to email their GP practice and book appointments online within three years under a new set of standards for the NHS, which will see GPs face more scrutiny over the quality of care they provide.

Jeremy Hunt: mandate will help NHS deal with demands facing the NHS
Jeremy Hunt: mandate will help NHS deal with demands facing the NHS

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt unveiled the new 'NHS Mandate' on Tuesday, which is designed to hold the NHS to account over performance, including health outcomes and quality of service.

Priorities for the mandate include improving early diagnosis, reducing premature deaths and improving dementia care.

The mandate will be used to judge performance of the NHS Commissioning Board (NHSCB), the body responsible for overseeing clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), and is modelled on the NHS Outcomes Framework.

The standards will include:

  • Online access for all patients to book GP appointments, request repeat prescriptions and talk to practices
  • A greater emphasis on patient feedback on quality of care
  • Better pregnancy care including a named midwife to co-ordinate care
  • Improved mental health care
  • Benchmarking the performance of NHS providers across all major services by 2015.

Targets will be broken down into five areas: preventing premature death, enhancing quality of life for long-term conditions, recovery from ill health or injury, ensuring a positive experience of care and treating people in a safe environment.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the mandate would give the NHS the priorities to deal with the demands facing the NHS, from an ageing population and rising treatment costs, to the emergence of new technologies.

He said: 'We do not want an NHS that focuses on narrow performance indicators but instead looks at true measures of whether all of us are receiving the highest quality of care.

'By focusing on what matters to patients, and giving doctors and other health professionals the freedom to deliver, we will make sure the NHS stays relevant to our needs and ensure this country's proudest creation remains its finest.'

BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter warned that any changes affecting patient records should not compromise patient confidentiality.

He said ministers must allow 'genuine clinical involvement' in delivering the aims of the mandate, and that there needs to be 'greater clarity' on how the NHSCB is held to account.

In July, the GPC warned that the initial proposals for the NHS Mandate, which was put out for consultation over the summer, failed to address fears over the quality premium.

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