NHS England welcomes moves to improve care for patients through empowering GPs

Patients are set to benefit from changes to the GP contract which will reduce bureaucracy and free GPs to deliver personalised care.

The changes will ensure that the most vulnerable patients receive personalised care.

This will mean more patients can be looked after in the community and will reduce emergency admissions.  GPs will be freed up from aspects of their work which have become overly bureaucratic.

The GP contract sets out the services that GP practices provide. The changes will come into effect from April 2014 following agreement between NHS Employers, on behalf of NHS England, and the BMA’s General Practitioners Committee (GPC).

Key changes to the GP (General Medical Services) contract are:

  • A named GP will be accountable for ensuring proactive care is provided for people aged 75 and older as well as patients who are at high risk of hospital admission or have complex health needs.
  • GPs to ensure integrated and personalised care for vulnerable patients, working with health providers such as A&E, the ambulance service and care homes to ensure joined up care. There will be a particular focus on reducing unnecessary hospital admissions and supporting appropriate admission and follow-up care.
  • A reduction in some overly prescriptive targets set out in the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) to free up more time for GPs, with more focus on the patient’s overall needs.
  • Patients having greater ability to choose the GP practice that best meets their needs.
  • Patients having the facility to book and amend appointments and repeat their prescriptions online. This is better and more convenient for the patient and frees up time for GP surgeries to focus on direct patient care.
  • From December 2014, the Friends and Family Test will be available at all GP surgeries. It asks ‘would you recommend this service to a friend or family member’ and follows the roll-out of the test for patients staying in hospital. As in other areas of the health service, the overall results will be published online as part of a drive to improve quality and transparency.
  • Encouraging GP practices to find innovative ways to offer extended opening hours to patients on evenings and at weekends.

Speaking about the announcement today, Dame Barbara Hakin, Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Chief Executive at NHS England, said:

“As a GP myself for many years, I know the importance of being able to do what we have been trained for – to use our professional clinical judgment to provide care and treatment that meets all aspects of a patient’s needs.

“We know that patients who receive a proactive and coordinated health and social care service are less likely to need to be admitted to hospital – in fact a fifth of hospital admissions could be avoided if this happened every time, and we know that this is particularly important for the most vulnerable patients with complex needs where properly coordinated care makes such a difference.

“It is also about making life easier for patients and the changes aim to do this by offering online facilities as well as giving patients greater flexibility to register with the GP surgery of their choice.

“This is at the very heart of these contractual changes. The aim is to reduce overly prescriptive bureaucracy and free up time for GPs, putting them firmly at the centre of the health and care system. With their unique knowledge and position, GPs are ideally placed to ensure patients receive one coordinated service, whatever their needs.

“This is a particularly important in light of the proposals outlined by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh last week. We need to help GPs and give them the headroom to address these important issues for patients.

“The changes are a key part of the transformation that is needed to ensure we have a health and social care service that works as one around the needs of patients, providing the right care every time.”

Speaking about changes to strengthen the online facilities that GP surgeries will offer, Beverley Bryant, Director of Strategic Systems and Technology at NHS England, said:

“Whether it is doing our banking or buying our shopping, we now expect to have the option to do every day things online.

“The facility to interact with our local health services such as GP surgeries is however not yet as advanced.

“I’m therefore delighted with these changes that build on the facilities that some GPs surgeries already offer such as online appointment booking or repeating a prescription. This will make it part of the standard service for patients. Not only will it be more convenient for patients, it will free up time for GP surgeries to focus on direct, personalised patient care.”

Further detail will be available via the NHS England website on Friday 15 November.