Hancock says dropping home visits 'a non-starter' after LMC vote

Removing home visits from the core GP contract is a 'complete non-starter', health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has warned after LMCs backed the move last week.

GPs at the 2019 England LMCs conference voted to remove home visits from the core GP contract, arguing that spiralling workload and workforce shortages mean the profession no longer has the capacity to deliver them.

But speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme Mr Hancock said: 'The idea that people shouldn’t be able, when they need it, to have a home visit from a GP is a complete non-starter.'

The health and social care secretary added that 'you do need, sometimes, for the GP to be able to go and see somebody'.

Home visit warning

The RCGP, meanwhile, which had warned LMCs ahead of the conference not to back the call to drop home visits, also voiced concerns over the vote.

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said: 'Home visits are a core part of general practice and for some of our more complex and vulnerable patients, they might be the only means of seeing their GP.

'Of course, home visits should be used wisely as they can be time consuming and take GPs away from our surgeries where we could be seeing more patients. But it is vital that patients who need the skills and expertise of a GP are able to access them if they are unable to make arrangements to get to their local surgery.'

LMCs narrowly voted in favour of the call to drop home visits on 22 November after a long debate - with 54% of delegates supporting a motion asking the BMA's GP committee to negotiate with NHS England over the proposal.

Acute visiting service

A total of 74% of delegates backed a second part of the motion that called on the GPC to work to establish a separate acute service for urgent home visits.

GPC contracts lead Dr Julius Parker warned delegates at the conference that the likelihood of the GPC being able to successfully negotiate such a change to the contract was 'extremely low'.

Professor Marshall added: 'General practice is under enormous pressure at present and we have a severe shortage of GPs, so we are very supportive of proposals to train other members of the GP team such as physician associates and advanced paramedics to carry out home visits as appropriate – but they are not a substitute for GPs.

'This proposal is now for the BMA, as the doctors' union, to decide, but it would need a lot of consideration and any changes would need to be widely and sensitively communicated to patients.

'Meanwhile, we would urge our patients requesting a home visit to consider very carefully whether they really need one, so that valuable GP time is spent most wisely on those patients who need it most.'

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