Practices face DoH efficiency review

The DoH is to review the potential for cost savings in GP practices after a report called for them to share 'airline check-in'-style appointment systems.

'Airline check-in'-style appointments could save millions, says the DoH (Photograph: Alamy)
'Airline check-in'-style appointments could save millions, says the DoH (Photograph: Alamy)

The report by the NHS Confederation's Foundation Trust Network, commissioned by the DoH, suggests regional and national GP appointment centres could generate substantial savings.

'The majority of GP practices have dedicated administrative support teams, often undertaking identical tasks, including the organisation and booking of patient appointments,' the report says.

'This system should be radically re-engineered.'

It calls for the DoH to lead a review of practices' back office functions and to report back by September next year.

A DoH spokesperson confirmed this would go ahead, despite the government distancing itself from the report.

At the NHS Alliance conference in Bournemouth last week, health minister Lord Howe dismissed claims that thousands of receptionists faced redundancy. 'Take it from me, the government is planning no such thing,' he said.

NHS Alliance GMS/PMS lead Dr David Jenner warned that the DoH would take the report into account as it demanded efficiency savings from practices in future rounds of contract negotiations. But he added that the current government would not micromanage GPs by imposing a specific cost-saving scheme.

A DoH spokesperson said: 'It is entirely up to the local NHS to decide how to provide the best possible services for their local communities.'

The GPC rejected the suggestion that practice receptionists could be replaced by call centres as 'nonsensical'.

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman, a single-hander in London, said: 'Patients register with my practice exactly because it's not a shared model.'

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'It demonstrates that those who dreamt this up have no idea how general practice works.'

The report said the health service could save up to £600 million by reorganising the way that NHS management and providers shared administrative staff.

Savings generated by PCTs should be translated into the management allocations for GP consortia, and consortia should be audited to show that they do not exceed specific cash limits on management spending, the report added.

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