Thousands of patients are set to receive potentially life-saving care thanks to the new government blueprint for changes to the GP contract, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has claimed.
The proposals will change the way GPs are rewarded for the care they offer. Instead of being rewarded for routine office functions like record keeping, GPs will be rewarded for steps which directly support and benefit patients. This includes better control of blood pressure and cholesterol, to prevent heart attacks and stroke and assessing patients at risk from dementia.
Millions of pounds will be switched into improving care for patients and making better use of taxpayers' money, Hunt said. The proposed changes will see £164m pounds taken away from rewarding GPs for bureaucratic tick-box exercises and re-directed into actions which will directly benefit patients.
The changes could mean that around 1.5m more patients will get better care in 2013/14 and this could reach as high as 3.5m by 2014/15. The changes should mean more tests, treatments and medicines for patients with diabetes, hypertension, lung disease, heart failure and arthritis – care that will improve diagnosis, the health of patients and potentially save more lives.
"Getting patients an earlier diagnosis of dementia and supporting those with long-term conditions are my main priorities [and] I want GPs to take the lead in making this happen," Hunt said.
"Standards of care in this country must be world class – and we should continuously strive to improve. This is why the GP contract must change. Our proposals will make sure we support the patients most in need and will help save lives in practices across the country. We believe GPs can and will rise to these new challenges."
However, the British Medical Association (BMA), which has not agreed with the changes or the way they were negotiated, said the government had not considered the impact they would have on GP practices.
Dr Laurence Buckman, chair of the BMA's GP committee, said: "Practices are already under huge workload pressures and we have real fears that these proposed changes will result in an even greater load at the same time as forcing through a reduction in core funding. The government's proposals may sound attractive on the face of it and some of their suggestions are good, however they have not fully considered the overall impact on practices of all these changes being implemented together. This could make it difficult for some practices to maintain the level of care they currently offer, let alone increase their capacity to meet the demands of these new proposals."
He added: "We also remain unconvinced about the basis for some of the proposed changes, which include asking GPs to refer patients to certain education programmes which do not exist everywhere in the UK."