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Monitor launches ‘exploration’ of GP services

Regulator to examine patient access and service development

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 02 July 2013

Monitor has launched an examination of the commissioning and provision of GP services in England, in which it will be looking at patient access and service development. The health regulator says its purpose is to better understand the challenges currently faced by general practice.

On the same day as Monitor’s call for evidence on “aspects of the provision and commissioning of general practice services which may not be working in the best interests of patients” came a GP’s plea for the removal of meaningless, non-evidence-based targets and forms so doctors can get back to looking after sick patients.

Monitor said yesterday that it wants to “increase its understanding of this important part of the health sector at a time when it is operating under increased pressures”, as part of its “primary duty” to protect and promote patients’ interests. It insists that this “exploratory exercise” is neither a formal investigation under its enforcement powers, nor a review of the quality of individual practices.

Yet it says it is particularly keen to receive evidence on patients’ ability to access GP services, and to switch practices; the ability of new or existing GP providers to develop the scope of the NHS services they offer, including in new locations; and new models of primary care that local health communities are planning or considering, and the potential barriers to these being implemented. It wants to hear from patients, current and potential providers of GP services, secondary care providers, commissioners of GP services, government and others.

Monitor’s chair and chief executive Dr David Bennett said: “For many patients, GPs are the first port of call when they access NHS services and general practice has a significant impact on the wider heath sector.

“People want a good service from their GPs, they want to be able to see their regular doctor at times that suit them and they want to be able to make informed choices about their health care.

“This call for evidence is an opportunity for Monitor to learn about any barriers preventing general practitioners from delivering what is best for patients.”

The NHS Alliance said that it welcomed the “opportunity” presented by Monitor’s review, “to understand more clearly what ‘good’ primary care really is”.

But Dr Amy Small, a GP principal in East Lothian, blogged on the BMA website yesterday that general practice “has become totally unsustainable as a full-time job”.

To improve the current situation, she suggested: “We need to strip out the non-evidence based parts of the quality and outcomes framework. We need to get back to basics and be doctors that look after patients who are sick. We need to stop chasing meaningless targets. We need to stop filling out meaningless forms. Our infrastructure needs to be adequately invested in, so that we can go and get on with our jobs. We’ll do a great job, I have no fear of that, just leave us be.”

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