Health minister criticises GPs but hints at contract flexibility

Health minister Lord Howe has accused GPs of blocking patient choice but hinted at flexibility over plans to make them responsible for 24-hour care of the vulnerable elderly.

Lord Howe: GPs block patient choice
Lord Howe: GPs block patient choice

Lord Howe told a Westminster Health Forum seminar in central London on Tuesday that GPs would have to ensure vulnerable elderly patients received coordinated care.

Talks are underway between the GPC and NHS Employers to define how these plans will be written into the GP contract for 2014/15.

But Lord Howe suggested coordination and delivery of 24-hour care for vulnerable elderly patients could be delegated to other health professionals rather than run entirely by GPs themselves.

The minister told the conference that 'many' GPs fail to 'point their patients to Choose and Book' and said he hoped NHS England and CCGs would address the issue. 'There are many doctors that just take the excuse to keep the appointments of their patients as short as possible and to direct them to the tried and familiar secondary care provider,' he said.

The government plans to create a ‘personalised proactive primary care overseen by a named GP’, Lord Howe said. GPs would be made ‘accountable for a person’s care, ensuring effective care coordination and provision of services’, he said.

Lord Howe revealed that the government was keen to imitate an initiative in north west London. ‘Some areas are already operating a system whereby a named GP oversees and coordinates the care of individual patients,’ he said.

‘For example in north west London phenomenal work has been done. They’ve focused on pro-active care management.

‘They’ve used multidisciplinary teams to provide a breadth of support to date. They have got 27,000 patients with care plans in place, to help them stay healthy and independent.

‘We want this sort of thing to happen everywhere. We know from speaking and listening to many people, they feel as if they have fallen through the gaps of the systems, at the point where care is handed over between different organisations.

‘And that is partly why we want GPs to help provide that continuity and ensure that people do feel supported.’

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt confirmed at the Conservative party confernence earlier this month that from next April, GPs in England will be responsible for the 24-hour care of the vulnerable elderly.

Practices are unlikely to be handed any extra money for co-ordinating 24-hour care of the frail elderly, Yorkshire GP and vice chairman of policy forum Conservative Health, Dr Paul Charlson has warned.

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