Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has announced that he is thinking of implementing a new programme that would see more patient services being moved to GP practices from hospitals, in a move to sending the NHS ‘back to basics’.
Speaking at the recent Best Practice conference in Birmingham, Mr Hunt said he thought it was “quite sobering” to note that the entire outpatient budget for hospitals is around the same as the entire general practice budget.
He added that he believes patients would prefer to have their medical problems solved inside general practice rather than being referred to hospital. Therefore the Department of Health (DH) is going through the system “condition by condition” and asking what barriers can be removed centrally to allow more of the work to happen in general practice.
Acknowledging that this would involve more work for GPs, the Health Secretary said that this would be paid for and argued that it would make “life more rewarding” for doctors and would allow patients to be seen more quickly. However, he also admitted that the DH was looking at how it would fund the shift in workload.
The announcement was made at the same time as NHS England has said it is in the process of developing a new voluntary GP contract for large-scale multi-disciplinary GP practices with 30,000 or more patients, which will aim for them to employ a wider range of healthcare staff.
It also came as the General Practitioners’ Committee (GPC) announced it has been successful in convincing NHS leaders to amend hospital contracts to stop ‘workload dump’ from secondary care colleagues at a time when GP practices are facing “unprecedented pressure”.