All NHS patients over the age of 75 must be assigned a named, accountable GP who will oversee their care across the health system, under the terms of a new contract between GPs and the Government announced today.
The contract, which focuses on keeping more patients out of hospital will see a “return to the old-fashioned values of family doctors”, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.
The renegotiated terms will also mean GPs have a responsibility to “monitor” the effectiveness of out-of-hours services used by all their patients.
“I think this is what GPs really want,” Mr Hunt told BBC Breakfast. “They became GPs because they want to deliver personal care that really looks after their patients. They didn't want to do all this box-ticking and bureaucracy and target-chasing.”
Plans to make GPs earnings public have also been announced today, with a working group set to look at how the information can best be released from 2015.
Mr Hunt told The Times: “The public will know what salaries GPs are taking home for NHS work. This will give the Government more confidence to hand more funds to GPs in future.”
GPs had previously been accused of adding pressure to A&E wards by being handed the option of giving up responsibility for out-of-hours care by sacrificing £6,000 a year in salary in their 2004 contract.
Mr Hunt said the new measures were the “first step in reversing” these “disastrous changes”.
“We can't do it all at once, it's a big, big change, but I think we need to start with these groups of people who are the most vulnerable,” he added.
There will be an “enhanced service” for patients with complex health needs aimed at avoiding unnecessarily admittance to hospital or A&E. Emergency care departments will have easier telephone access to GPs to decide whether or not a patient needs to be kept in.
New IT systems will be designed to improve the ability of patients to book appointments online and to access their summary medical record. Controversial proposals to digitise patient’s complete records have not been announced however.
Changes will see GPs freed from a number of “unnecessary targets and excessive paperwork”, according to the British Medical Association (BMA), which negotiated the changes with the Government.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA's GP committee, said the updated agreement would lead to benefits for patients.
“This will free up GPs to spend more time focusing on treating patients; mean that valuable resources will be reinvested in general practice to improve frontline care; and will encourage GPs to provide more personalised care for vulnerable patients at risk of hospital admission,” he said.
Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “This is welcome news for patients and for GPs as it will help us to get back to our real job of providing care where it is most needed, rather than more box-ticking.”
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said: “No amount of spin can hide the fact that David Cameron has made it harder to get a GP appointment. There is nothing in this new contract to correct that.”
“David Cameron cut Labour's scheme of evening and weekend opening and the guarantee of seeing a doctor within 48 hours. This announcement will not put an end to patients phoning the surgery at 9am and finding it impossible to get an appointment - many of whom, not happy with a phone consultation, will still turn to A&E.”
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