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GPs urged to stop seeing elderly patients as a 'drain on their time'

By Ian Cameron

GPs need to be more proactive in caring for older people and stop seeing them as a 'drain

on their time', a report by

the Government's spending watchdog concludes.

The wide-ranging study of elder care by the Audit Commission concluded practices could cut their workload if they managed older people's conditions more effectively.

It added GPs should link their care of the elderly more closely with other NHS and social services.

Jane Carrier, co-author of the report, 'Older People: Independence and Well-Being', said GPs' found it easier to deal with 'immediate issues' and overlooked elderly people's wider problems. She added: 'Pressure of work is part of that, but older people often feel they are on the receiving end of ageist attitudes.'

Ms Carrier said many GPs adopted an 'insular' approach to elderly care and should work more closely with community nurses and social services such as housing and benefits. 'It's about seeing primary care in the context of the whole system, having clarity of the GP role and what other services offer,' she said.

'The consequences if GPs do not is more crises for them to deal with and older people continuing to come to see them because they don't know where to turn, even if their main problem is not health.'

The report found elderly people had difficulty accessing GP services due to appointment systems aimed at meeting the Government's 48-hour access target which limit advanced booking.

Dr Joe Neary, RCGP national spokesman on older peo- ple, said elderly people often got a 'raw deal' but the quality and outcomes framework in the contract would lead to an improvement in GP services.

Dr Neary, a GP in Leeds, added: 'In response to that alone GPs are going to be more responsive to the needs of older people and that in itself will lead to a huge bonus in care.'

Dr Chris Dunstan, a GP in Byfleet, Surrey, and a member of the external reference group of the NSF for older people, said GPs 'feared opening a can of worms' when treating older people.

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