Health minister warns GPs 'set for public health role'

GPs have been given the clearest indication yet they will be handed a significant role in future public health measures.

Ms Milton: health White Paper is an opportunity to improve the UK’s health (Photograph: Nathan Clarke)
Ms Milton: health White Paper is an opportunity to improve the UK’s health (Photograph: Nathan Clarke)

Public health minister Anne Milton is planning a fully integrated public health system across all government departments, social and health services, in which primary care will play a ‘crucial’ role.

Speaking at a Kings Fund event in London on Wednesday, she acknowledged that GPs do not see public health as their ‘default’ mindset and said efforts would be made to avoid pushing extra workload onto them.

But Anna Dixon, director of policy at The King’s Fund, said it was time GPs were held to account on public health.

The details of any general practice involvement will be announced in a public health white paper in the autumn.

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It is expected that GPs will be asked to increase brief interventions for topics such as smoking and obesity, as well as an expansion of public health outcomes under QOF.

But it remains unclear whether all these tasks will be incentivised.

Ms Milton described the public health White Paper, due in the autumn, as a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to improve the UK’s health, starting with attitudes towards public health.

‘We need to bring public health out of the lecture theatre and into the living room,’ she said.

Anna Dixon, director of policy at The King’s Fund, said: ‘GPs have responsibility for registered population so they have a natural affinity for public health. There’s a real opportunity, if we hold them to account for public health.’

Ms Dixon said it was important incentives were right to ‘seize the opportunity’ to improve public health, adding that previous incentives such as QOF showed that you ‘get what you pay for’.

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