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GPs now face producing care plans for 15 million patients

GPs will be expected to produce care plans for all 15 million patients in the UK with chronic diseases under new Government plans, writes Daniel Cressey.

Ministers have signalled their intention to introduce a new directed enhanced service to pay practices for producing the plans, integrating health and social care needs.

All patients with complex health and social care needs will be expected to have a care plan by 2008 and everyone with a chronic disease by 2010.

'Any care plans provided through a DES will be subject to negotiation,' the department said, in an impact assessment for its 'Our Health, Our Care, Our Say' White Paper.

GPs will also have to issue information prescriptions to patients with long-term conditions and their carers by 2008, at a cost of £2 million a year.

GPs, nurses or social workers will be able to fill the prescriptions during existing consultations, directing people to information to help them self-care.

The department said the plans 'should empower and improve the lives of all of those living with a long-term condition'.

And it suggested plans could eventually be extended to cover the entire population. 'The same should apply to all populations, as long as care plans are created for all and each recipient understands the requirements and terms of the plan,' it said.

GPs warned the work required to produce care plans for 15 million patients would be enormous.

Professor Azeem Majeed, head of the department of primary health care and general practice at Imperial College, London, said: 'I would ask whether this has been shown to be effective in clinical trials. I'd want evidence these plans would lead to better care.'

Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC deputy chair, said: 'If I have to write something out, that's an enormous workload, unsustainable. Practices just can't do it. However much you paid me I couldn't do it.'

But Professor Aneez Esmail, professor of general practice at the University of Manchester and a GP in the city, said: 'I wish the profession would stop whingeing and engage in a debate about how best to do this.'

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