GPs reassured on access payments
GPs face increased pressure to copy all clinical letters to
patients after ministers warned PCTs they would be penalised if they failed to ensure compliance.
The Department of Health insisted GPs would have to provide letters for all patients, including audio or large-print versions if necessary, despite fears of spiralling workload and increased patient anxiety.
The demands came as new research found copying referral and discharge letters to patients placed an unacceptable burden on doctors with GPs bearing the brunt of increased workload.
Two-thirds of patients in the study said they would respond to concerns over letters by contacting their GP, with the researchers concluding the bulk of inquiries were 'likely to fall to primary care'.
Three-quarters of patients felt they received enough
information without having letters copied, according to the new study, published in Rheumatology (October).
Lead author Dr Clive Kelly, a consultant physician and rheumatologist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gates-head, Tyne and Wear, said the plan showed the Government was not 'in touch with the real world'. He predicted the target to have all letters copied, set in April, would be largely ignored by GPs.
The Medical Protection Society warned copying letters put confidentiality at serious risk and urged GPs to give patients the choice of opting out.
GPs urged a boycott of the scheme. Dr Harry Yoxall, secretary of Somerset LMC, said: 'We have grave concerns about this. Until it is a contractual obligation we are advising GPs not to participate.'
But the department said GPs' compliance would be assessed via the National Patient Survey and PCTs paid accordingly.
By Rob Finch