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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)

  • "The Damp Prevention DES" You heard it here first....

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  • Why can't we just be left alone for a few months?

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  • How can I prescribe better politicians for my patients?

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  • Isn't it obvious, Hunt is moving department after the election. He can claim his holistic wonderful ideas never got into action.
    He never had chance to save the NHS.
    (and isn't damp homeopathy in the walls!)

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  • Jezza the gift that keeps on giving,he should stop taking class A drugs before speaking in public, I would have loved to see Sarah Wollaston's face when he said that

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  • perhaps if we could just get on with the medicine and weren't the answer to everyone's ills - ie someones else did it then we would all be happier

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  • I'm sure this guy secretly wanted to be a Dr when he was a kid and now feels sad he didn't make up for his weird sense of inferiority he gets off telling Drs what to exciting for him...perhaps it's his way of making him feel like he's helping people compensate for his vain and empty political 'career'

    I will be so glad when he's gone.

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  • So now we are responsible for housing, social interaction, in london we will be liaising with the debt and employment advisors, it must be time for GPs to prescribe a decent education, and perhaps we can even take our patients shopping and advise on what they put in their basket at the supermarket. I will have to take my children to our GP and ask that he prescribes board school :). Let's hope we are not held responsible for the dodgy builder.

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  • What is he talking about? Which GPs is he quoting? Anyone? Note to Hunt: GPs are DOCTORS. Stop trying to re-define general practice. Have you been listening to Prof Thomas? Our prime function is the practice of medicine.

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  • I would suggest that the Government devolve local Government to GPs since clearly we are better placed to assess needs and institute changes. Better yet create a GP-based meritocracy and get rid of these imbecile politicians altogether. Clearly the conclusion has been reached that we can be all things to all people. Now let's see.....Prof Thomas needs to spend some time in the sun in a warmer climate.....6 months in Syria should do the trick....Jezza is a bit overheated.......South Georgia would be nice

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