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Independents' Day

Hunt's flagship named GP policy ‘had no impact on continuity of care’

Assigning elderly patients a ‘named GP’ did not have any effect on the continuity of care they received, a study has revealed.

The Department of Health said it was too soon to write off the policy, which was introduced by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to ‘restore the personal link’ between patients and their GP and has since been extended to all patients.

But one leading GP said the study showed there was no evidence to support the approach and that it should be scrapped.

The ‘named GP’ policy was introduced as part of changes to the GP contract in April 2014, and required GPs to assign patients aged 75 and over a specific GP to be responsible for their care.

Researchers at The Health Foundation looked at 200 practices in England, and found that within three months of the new contract starting, almost 80% people aged 75-85 – around 3.6 million patients – had been assigned a named accountable GP by their practice – up from 4% at the beginning of April 2014.

However, they found no difference in continuity of care these patients received over the next nine months – as measured by a ‘usual provider of care’ index, essentially a measure of how often a patient saw the same GP – when compared with younger patients receiving ‘usual care’.

They also found no change in the number of GP contacts, diagnostic tests or referrals per person after the policy was introduced.

The researchers concluded: ‘The introduction of named accountable GPs in England did not improve longitudinal continuity of care over nine months. Consequently, no changes were detected in numbers of general practice visits, referrals to specialist care and diagnostic tests.

‘Continuity of care is valued by patients and may also be associated with better patient outcomes, so efforts to improve this dimension of quality seem warranted. However, initiatives may be more effective if they more comprehensively address the context in which general practice operates and include support to change workflows.’

Dr Paul Cundy, GPC representative for the south of England, said: ‘This was a political non evidence based policy. It is now an evidence based policy failure.’

Dr Cundy added: ‘In an ordinary world it would be dumped, but Mr Hunt has an evidenced record of ignoring the evidence so I’m not holding my breath.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘This study only looks at the outcomes for the first nine months of the initiative, giving limited time for the benefits of a named and accountable GP to be realised.

‘We know that patients value continuity of care. That’s why from April 2015 all patients – not just those aged 75 and over – have had the right to a named GP.’

BMJ Open 2016; available online 16 September

Readers' comments (12)

  • Well of course it didn't - who ever thought that it would?

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  • "A Department of Health spokesperson said...
    ‘We know that patients value continuity of care. That’s why from April 2015 all patients – not just those aged 75 and over – have had the right to a named GP’"

    That's not continuity of care. Continuity of care is having the choice of seeing the same doctor which is getting less and less likely as federations and mega-practices are promoted

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  • Well what a shock!

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  • This is turning into an absolute farce!

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  • Only an idiot would believe this would work in the current s***storm which is general practice.Oh ther you are Mr Hunt!

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  • I am retiring from this sh**storm. One less named GP

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  • an utterly pathetic ludicrous piece of bureaucratic delusional fantasy from the worse sos of all time..typical of the man to think that a few words will make a difference whilst he steadily encourages destruction of patient/gp links by encouraging large hubs and superpractices and seven day nonsense.
    non evidence based piece of idiocy from someone who did not understand the problem less still the solution..and worst still whose policies actually completely scupper the purported purpose.
    satire becomes doubt learned from the PR master of ignorant gobbledegook mr camoron now resigned in complete national disgrace who fantasized about 7 day routine services as a pre election LIE/BRIBE without understanding why;how to do it or how to fund it..still less how to implement it.(and his other genius level imposition of 'screening' for dementia when it was clear he had less than a clue what screening actually monumentally incompetent ignorant/arrogant and sadly feeble)
    surely the most incompetent government for 100 years

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  • Really???

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  • Continuity of care underpins good medicine.

    Its the one crime we as a profession are guilty of throwing away without fighting for it.

    It is a real thing, 'named doctors' do not create it

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  • I think any article with this mans face on it will provoke rage and resignations from doctors.
    I have already left medicine but one more hint of Hunt and I would be gone again.

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