RCGP urges caution over call to scrap home visits

Workload pressures are forcing GP practices into tough decisions about which services they continue to offer, the RCGP has admitted as LMCs debate whether to scrap home visits.

GP home visit (Photo: Cavan Images/Getty Images)
GP home visit (Photo: Cavan Images/Getty Images)

GP leaders at the 2019 English LMCs conference later this month will discuss proposals to remove home visits from practices’ core contract responsibilities because of diminishing GP time.

Ahead of the debate, the RCGP has said practices are ‘under enormous pressure’, with GPs ‘working flat out to try and keep pace with rising patient demand’.

The college said a severe shortage of GPs was forcing practices to make very difficult decisions about where best to allocate their time and resources to deliver maximum benefit for their patients.

But it warned that any move to scrap home visits would ‘need a lot of consideration’, with any changes ‘widely and sensitively communicated to patients’.

No GP substitute

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Home visits can be very time consuming and take the GP away from the surgery when they could be seeing other patients, and where there are far better facilities to properly assess patients.

‘But for some of our more complex and vulnerable patients, home visits are an invaluable, and often the only, means of seeing their GP.

‘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 and it is vital that patients who need the skills of a GP are able to access them.’

The debate around whether doctors should scrap home visits has been fiercely debated by GPs on social media, with many appearing to be in favour of keeping the practice.

Hampshire GP Dr Hannah Morgan said doctors wanted to continue visiting patients at home, but warned practices had to get it right for both parties.

Glasgow GP Dr Margaret McCartney said some home visits were essential, and it would be better to drop other 'non-evidence based policy and make space for what's important'.

Nottinghamshire GP Dr Carter Singh, however, said an acute home visiting service in his area had been 'invaluable in freeing up scarce GP time'.

GPonline revealed last month that practice workload had increased significantly in the first half of the current financial year, with practices delivering 2.7m more appointments than in the same six-month period a year earlier.

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