NHS Direct plan to help GPs hit quality targets

GP patients with cardiovascular disease and diabetes are enrolling in a home-care service run by NHS Direct, which believes it will help GPs reach quality targets.

The Birmingham pilot is 'precisely the type of localised, patient-focused service envisaged in the DoH's White Paper' and could act as a model for the rest of the country, according to the group that set it up.

Run by North and Eastern Birmingham PCTs, NHS Direct and private company Pfizer Health Solutions, 'Birmingham Own Health' gives patients a personalised programme of healthcare support over the telephone from a care manager.

The care manager is a specialist nurse, employed by NHS Direct, who will help patients to follow treatment programmes already agreed with a patient's GP. The nurse will help patients with self-monitoring and lifestyle advice.

NHS Direct has not always received a positive reception from GPs, but its medical director Dr Mike Sadler said this was not the case with this scheme.

'Local GPs have been very supportive of the system because they can see that it will help them hit their quality targets,' he said.

Dr Peter Thebridge, one of the GPs involved in the pilot said that he did not know how it would affect his work.

'But it has to be of benefit,' he said. 'Patients running through the programme will have to show different behaviours, an improved HbA1c or BP, and so on. Reduction in MI is a long-term deadline.'

He said that all these would contribute to whether GPs would 'find it useful or a pain'.

However, he was confident that patients would like it.

'My gut feeling is that it will work like the expert patient programme. People will feel better about themselves when they are more in control,' he said.

'A relationship at home over the phone is different from coming into the surgery. It is familiar territory so patients might be more at ease with it and so able to take control.'

Dr Thebridge added that unless other PCTs adopted similar models of self-care the NHS would 'struggle to survive'.

'The NHS is still slightly paternalistic at the moment and GPs do not necessarily have the time or the skills to train in self-care,' he said.

Dr Sadler, stressed that the self-care scheme did not replace general practice but was aimed at supporting GPs' work in the two clinical areas.

'Once outside the GP surgery, many people want an additional source of support and advice,' he said. 'Working in partnership with local GPs and healthcare professionals, the care managers will give people ongoing support and encouragement to manage their condition, embrace healthier behaviours and ultimately enjoy better health.'

The scheme will be launched on 3 April.

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