GPs to run home safety checks for elderly under Labour NHS plan

GPs could be required to manage a system of safety checks to identify energy savings and trip hazards in elderly patients' homes and to link lonely people with social activities if Labour wins the general election in May.

Ed Miliband: 10-year plan for NHS
Ed Miliband: 10-year plan for NHS

Opposition leader Ed Miliband and shadow health secretary Andy Burnham will set out the party’s 10-year plan for the NHS in separate speeches on Tuesday kicking off a major plank of the party’s general election campaign.

Mr Miliband is expected to warn that the health service faces its ‘most perilous moment’ when voters go to the polls in 100 days.

Mr Burnham will set out in detail Labour’s plans, including the integration of health and social care, investment in the NHS workforce, and prevention of ill health.

GP safety checks

The party’s plans will include the introduction a GP-run ‘safety check’ system for vulnerable older people to identify risks and prevent ill health.

GPs would use computer systems to identify older people most at risk of hospitalisation and ensure they are checked on to identify potential problems.

The system could prevent falls by identifying and tackling trip hazards in the home, for example, fitting a £50 grab rail to prevent the £14,000 cost of a hip fracture.

The checks could prevent cold related illnesses through home energy assessments and linking people up with fuel poverty support. Lonely and depressed people could be linked up with social activities and support.

A similar scheme in Cornwall has seen a £4.40 return for every £1 invested, Labour said, with emergency hospital admissions down 30%.

Expand GP workforce

But GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said the scheme would require an expansion of the primary care team. The Cornish programme, he suggested, had used third sector staff rather than GPs.

Dr Vautrey said: ‘What we need is a commitment to expand every primary healthcare team so there are enough people working in close partnership with practices to do checks and interventions such as these.’

Labour’s 10-year plans will commit the party to:

  • Invest in staff: including 8,000 more GPs paid for by a £2.5bn Time to Care Fund raised from the mansion tax, cracking down on tax avoidance and a new levy on tobacco firms.
  • Integrate care from home to hospital: to bring physical, mental and social care together in a single service.
  • Give patients new rights to access care: including guaranteeing a GP appointment in 48 hours to anyone who wants one and on the same day if they need it, as well as cancer test results within a week.
  • End the neglect of mental health care: including prioritising investment in young people’s mental health.
  • Prevent ill health: including introducing limits on the amount of sugar, fat and salt in food marketed to children.
  • Restore the right values: including the repeal of section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act, which Labour says forces the NHS to waste money on tendering.

Mr Burnham will outline plans for an integrated health and social care service at the King’s Fund thinktank on Tuesday. He is expected to say: ‘When people can’t get to see their GP, they end up in A&E. When problems with mental health aren’t spotted early at school or work, they build up and end up in hospital.

'When elderly people can’t get the care they need at home, they are more likely to grow ill or have a fall and end up in hospital. In each and every case, it is worse for the person involved and it costs more for the NHS too.

‘If we are going to build an NHS that meets the challenges of the 21st century – and sustain funding for it through the 21st century - we cannot leave parents unable get a GP appointment for their sick child, or neglect mental health, or limit social care visits for some of the most vulnerable in our communities to just 15 minutes a time. We will end these scandals because they have no place in a world-class health service but also because no competent government can afford to ignore them any longer.’

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