GPs may be forced to lay off staff and share 'airline-style' appointment centres

GP practices could be forced to share 'airline check-in'-style appointment systems and lay off back office staff to save cash under proposals in a report commissioned by the DoH.

The report, from the Foundation Trust Network, says at a conservative estimate the NHS can save up to £600m on by reorganising how NHS management and provider organisations share administrative staff.

Substantial savings could be generated by moving to ‘regional and national GP appointment centres’, the report says.

It explains: ‘A specific area of work which offers significant potential for increasing efficiency is the back office functions directly supporting the delivery of primary care services.

‘The majority of GP practices have dedicated administrative support teams, often undertaking identical tasks, including the organisation and booking of patient appointments. This system should be radically re-engineered.’

The report, endorsed by DoH national director for improvement and efficiency Jim Easton, recommends that the department ‘commissions work to evaluate the options redefining how these functions ought to be undertaken’.

‘This work should directly involve primary care clinicians and aim to report with a set of recommendations by September 2011,’ the report adds.

Provider organisations should ‘move rapidly’ to adopt the reforms, the report adds.

The report adds that the savings PCTs generate from sharing back office functions should be translated into the allocations for management functions that GP consortia will receive, and that consortia should be audited to show that they do not exceed specific cash limits on management spending.

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