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Damp treatment and prescribing lunch clubs should form part of 'holistic' NHS approach, says Hunt

GPs could prescribe lunch clubs and damp treatment to their patients as part of a more ‘holistic’ approach to commissioning, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has suggested.

Taking questions from the House of Commons health committee on healthcare spending, Mr Hunt said he finds it ‘interesting’ that GPs ‘are taking a broader view’ when deciding what to prescribe to patients. He went onto describe ‘social prescribing’ options which he said he did ‘not want to stand in the way of’ CCGs commissioning as GP prescribing options.

It comes as Pulse reported last week on GPs’ warning that cutbacks to social support was causing patients to become ill.

Mr Hunt suggested patients could be helped by CCGs commissioning services that addressed the ‘root cause’ of their health illness, which may be for example poor housing, having last week said CCGs should co-commission social care as well as primary care.

He told MPs today: ‘One of the things that I think is quite interesting is that GPs are taking a broader view of what the appropriate thing to prescribe is. We have seen a big growth for example in social prescription. Where GPs are saying that actually, the root cause of this person’s problems is isolation and loneliness and so effectively I am going to prescribe that you join a lunch club, or something like that, and make sure that you have company in your life. And I think we need to be open minded to CCGs who say actually this is the kind of thing that is going to help deal with the root causes.

‘There are other CCGs that look at look at housing problems. That have actually been sorting out the damp in somebody’s flat, because they realise that is the root cause of some of the problems they face. I think the NHS is taking a more holistic view of what it takes to address people’s medical problems than it did before, and I don’t think we want to stand in the way of that.’

The session also saw the chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, quizzed by committee chair and former GP Dr Sarah Wollaston MP over the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon CCG’s announcement that it was going to tackle its deficit by rationing services to patients that are obese or smokers.

Asked whether he was supportive of the plans, Mr Stevens said NHS England ‘does have some reservations’ about the plans.

He said: ‘I know that there are pressures facing the CCG and rightly they need to respond to them… That said, we want to ensure, and they are obliged under the NHS Constitution, to ensure that patients get care where they can benefit from it according to reasonable criteria, and that there is proper consultation on any changes that are being made there, that the NHS Constitution provisions are in place. And so I think frankly we do have some reservations about the particular approach that has been proposed there.

‘I know that the CCG is reflecting on that in light of the public consultation and response. And so we will have to see what the decide but I would be surprised if that turns out to be the principle route to getting themselves ship shape going forward.’

Readers' comments (43)

  • It's April 1st, isn't it. It must be.

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  • Have just prescribed 3 damp courses a new roof and an extension bit worried about my prescribing budget but got a nice backhander from the patients

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  • It looks to me like this could be a clue as to where the massive cuts are going to come from should Hunt et al remain in power. Could be the end of the Welfare State and Public Services. Just dump all the responsibility onto our Fantistic GPs, then make them their whipping boys or scapegoats. When the money runs out, then it will force GPs to start discriminating as to who gets what leading to total mistrust and mayhem. All the GPs will flee abroad leaving a gaping hole they can fill with newly trained Salaried GPs, whose salaries and contracts will be substantially different.

    RIP our GPs you do not deserve this. Neither do we.............

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  • Vinci Ho

    (1) I said it in the past: GPs are people's doctors: hence the best way to rule is to divide people and GPs. Yes , let CCGs be the scapegoat for austerity at the level of social care and welfare.
    (2)My Christmas card to Sarah with the same old message: Quit your party while you can still preserve your halo on the top of your head.
    (3)CCGs are to become the new enemy of common people . And CCGs are GPs by definition . So my Christmas card to you guys , GP commissioners , all quit and walk out after New Year's Day

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  • A long time ago, in far off Hartlepool, GPs could refer patients into lunch clubs and for replacement of coal-fired heating systems. It worked, addressing loneliness and helping the isolated elderly live in acceptable conditions. GPs had the right to refer because they and the district nurse were often the only friendly face these folk saw. Then came the cuts which removed the funding from the local authority. The principle is a good one, but not from health funding. That's simply a case of Hunt revisiting the old trick of protecting the budget numbers but sliding in a whole stack of new financial pressure. Seen that before anyone?

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  • I left the Army in 2008 and fortunately, I have good health and have not had the need to register with a GP.

    I have often wondered about where my Tax and National Insurance is going if I'm not using it but I am happy to contribute to the well-being of those less fortunate than me.

    HOWEVER, I have a damp room in my house and could do with a new roof and possibly an extension, I've also got a problem with some plumbing, where's that GP Registration form??

    A New Damp proof course for the price of a prescription...................... I'll have some of that thank you very much!!! Three cheers for Jezza... Hip Hip

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  • GPs should consider the economics of this: A letter for a patient supporting getting his damp sorted takes how much time? Patient making repeat visits due to damp-caused health problems takes how much time?
    Costs how much money? Patient no longer coming in because damp has been sorted saves how much money?
    As a hospital social worker, I started paying regular weekly, then bi-weekly visits to a client who had had at least five emergency hospital admissions for a few years before I became involved. During the year I was offering support, he had only one, and that was when he was away on holiday. Then I was told that my visits should stop, because they were taking up too much of my time. I'm sure that the difference in cost to the NHS/the hospital of my visits versus five admissions to intensive care annually would have suggested that this intervention was cost effective - but no one made the calculation.

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  • Maybe I am not up to speed here - I am assuming that the cost of the damp repair would come out of some housing support budget, not paid by the practice. Looking at some of the above, is Hunt trying to say that the Health/Social Care budget should pay for housing repairs? Then I see your point!

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  • @ Linda Hansard 7.48pm

    Totally agree - how else can they reduce the UK deficit. Don't forget that they plan to reduce our annual borrowing from £90B to zero by 2018. Only 40% of cuts have been made since 2010. So 60% to come in 3 years. However there is still the unheard of national debt of £1377B to pay back!! And if there is a run on bonds (and many economists predict this) interest rates (at an all time low) will rise and there will be NO public services!! God help all of us.

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  • maybe tory failure to build enough houses so forcing many people to rely on overpriced greedy buy to let slum landlords...and central government social care cuts..might be relevant,*unt?

    i await next week's insane delusional trash ..he is a laughable clown.

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