Fund-holding GPs 'give better service'

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The Independent Online
FAMILY doctors who handle their own budgets, many in excess of pounds 1.5m a year, are more efficient, employing fewer staff, seeing more patients, but seemingly providing a better service writes Celia Hall.

Under health service changes, group practices with more than 9,000 patients can apply to become budget holders and about one in ten now pays directly for the patients' drugs or hospital treatment.

A 'business profile' of GPs was conducted by TSB Bank plc and Doctor magazine. Answers from 545 fund-holding and non fund- holding practices provides evidence of a two-tier service with patients of fund-holders getting a better deal.

It found that there was one doctor for every 2,379 patients, and one support employee, including nurses, secretaries and locums, for every 1,089 patients in fund-holding practices. This compared to 1,773 and 773 in the non-fund holding practices.

However, more than half the fund-holders said they offered extra services to patients such as chiropody or counselling and seven out of ten said their patients had shorter waits for hospital treatment than previously.

A report in the Health Services Journal warns that the 7 per cent increase in the number of patients receiving treatment in 1991-92

reported by the Department of Health may not be an accurate figure because a patient could be counted several times if he or she is seen by more than one consultant in the course of treatment.

The department said it was confident the figure was accurate.