GPs welcome NHS care reforms

Doctors' leaders in Norfolk last night gave a cautious welcome to government plans to move NHS care closer to people's homes with GPs offering more services.

Doctors' leaders in Norfolk last night gave a cautious welcome to government plans to move NHS care closer to people's homes with GPs offering more services.

The government's GP tsar Dr David Colin-Thome yesterday published a report showing how GPs could do more to improve services for people in the community and cut the burden on NHS hospitals.

He wants to see “one-stop shops” where family doctors and consultants work side by side, and manage areas such as post-surgery check-ups in GP practices.

GPs will also be encouraged to open their surgeries at more convenient hours for patients - such as before and after work and at weekends.

But Dr Simon Lockett, secretary of the Norfolk Local Medical committee which represents family doctors in the county, said the critical issue was the need to make more resources available to make such changes.

Dr Lockett added: “GPs would love to be able to do more but that would require more investment in premises and staff and to invest you need to be confident that 'money will follow the patient'. Past history is not terribly reassuring that this would happen.”

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He said attempts by Norfolk Primary Care Trust to take money from general practice made it even more unlikely that the suggested changes, which require the “buy-in” of GPs, will happen soon.

The announcement comes as Norfolk PCT is considering closing community hospitals.

The government's GP tsar said an example of the changes could be to bring in a salaried doctor to work Saturday mornings.

He added: “It does not mean every GP has to work 60 or 70 hours a week but the practice needs to organise themselves to do that.”

A reduction in referrals to hospitals coupled with shorter stays could mean more money being diverted from hospitals and into primary care, he said.

The report comes as GPs are under fire for high salaries as a result of a new contract.