The government has announced plans to prevent GPs having to rearrange hospital appointments for patients.
The Department of Health says GPs’ time is wasted by referring patients back to hospitals for outpatient appointments.
The move is part of a package of measures to give patients in England more information on how their area’s health service is performing, including the launch of “Ofsted-style” ratings.
The measures will be unveiled later by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
The British Medical Association welcomed moves to cut bureaucracy for GPs but said “simplistic Ofsted-style ratings” would not lead to any improvement in patient care.
‘Too many obstacles’
When patients miss outpatient appointments they often have to go back to their GPs to be referred again for their hospital treatment.
This adds to the mounting workload at practices.
Now the Department of Health says moves will be made to get hospitals to ensure their local policies do not allow for these cases to have to go back to GPs.
According to the department, 2.5% of GPs’ time is taken up by re-referrals – that is equivalent to the amount of time spent seeing about six million patients per year in England.
Citing a report by the NHS Alliance, officials say that up to 27% of GP appointments could potentially be avoided if there was more co-ordinated working between GPs and hospitals and better use of technology.
Measures to provide ratings for the performance of the NHS in local areas are also being unveiled.
Currently ratings are provided by the Care Quality Commission for hospitals and other trusts.
The plan now is to do the same for the organisations which pay for healthcare in local areas, known as clinical commissioning groups.
From mid-2016, their performance in areas like cancer, dementia and diabetes will be published by NHS England.
Mr Hunt said: “We’ve made progress in creating a stronger partnership between doctor and patient, but we still put too many obstacles in the way of doctors and nurses wanting to do the right thing.
“By being more transparent than ever before about crucial services and freeing up more time for GPs to care, we really can make NHS patients the most powerful in the world.”
Dr Maureen Baker, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Measures to reduce bureaucracy in general practice, which will allow us to spend more time with our patients and streamline our patients’ experience of the health service, are encouraging.
“We look forward to hearing more details about these plans.
“However, we question whether the introduction of Ofsted-style ratings systems for area health teams will improve patient care whilst there is no evidence that this does improve outcomes in a health setting.”
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, of the British Medical Association, said the plan to simplify the GP referral system was a “step in the right direction”.
But he added that he did not believe that “simplistic” ratings of commissioning groups would lead to better care or give an accurate picture of services in local areas.
Read more: www.bbc.com