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GPs must be ‘confident' to remind patients of health ‘responsibilities', says Hancock

GPs should feel ‘confident’ to remind patients of their ‘responsibilities' in preventing illness, health secretary Matt Hancock said today, as he announced the Government’s long-term focus will be on stopping people becoming unwell.

Speaking at the International Association of National Public Health Institutes in London, Mr Hancock said he wants to see people taking ‘greater personal responsibility’ for managing their own health.

The NHS needs a 'radical shift' in how it sees itself, said the health secretary, who called for the service to move from a 'hospital service for the ill', to a national service 'to keep us healthy'.

He described GPs as the ‘bedrock’ of the NHS and that they ‘[should] feel confident to remind people of their responsibilities', adding: 'I want to see people taking greater personal responsibility for managing their own health.'

The disparity between the amount of NHS money spent on secondary acute care compared with primary care services was also highlighted by the health secretary.

'Currently, we spend the overwhelming majority of the £115bn NHS budget on acute care. Last year, we spent just £11bn on primary care where the bulk of prevention happens. Yet the combination of prevention and predictive medicine have more than twice the impact on length of healthy life,' he said.

His comments coincide with a new report released today by the Department of Health and Social Care that outlines the Government’s vision for improving preventiom, as it develops its long-term 10-year plan for the NHS.

In the report, called Prevention is better than cure, Mr Hancock said the Government’s cash injection of an extra £20.5 billion a year by the end of the next five years would provide a ‘unique opportunity to radically change the focus of health and social care onto prevention’.

He said 'greater funding for pre-primary, primary and community care - and support for the staff who work in these services' is needed.

However, the health secretary did not use his speech to provide details about how far GPs would receive a larger proportion of NHS England funding in the future.

The report said primary care is a ‘central part’ of the plans and that the Government wants to see ‘GPs working more closely together and with other professionals such as pharmacists and community nurses’.

It said: ‘This could mean working together in the same building, or collaborating virtually, as a network.’

The report noted an example of GP practices working in this way included those operating in a federation, using multidisciplinary teams that include pharmacists, physiotherapists and GPs.

It said the ongoing independent review of the GP partnership model was exploring these models and that the Government will ‘say more on this soon’.

‘An independent review [the GP partnership review] is currently underway to consider how these models could best support primary care staff, other services and the populations they serve,’ it said.

More details on the Government’s plans will be made available in a green paper on prevention being developed from next year, added the report.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey welcomed the Government’s focus on prevention but stressed ‘extremely damaging effect’ of cuts to public health budgets in recent years.

He said: ‘As this strategy notes, improving people’s health requires public health initiatives to encourage wiser food choices, regular exercise and a change of lifestyle, including help to quit smoking and reduce alcohol intake.

‘However, with these services stretched, it is GPs and their staff, as the first point of contact for many patients, who bear the workload brunt when their local population’s health suffers.

‘The Government must therefore take responsibility for the part wider budget cuts have played in the nation’s deteriorating health.’

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard warned any plans to expand community support must see some of the extra workforce based in general practice.

'We must ensure that general practice does not lose out in the plans to expand community support and that any additional staff are allocated to GP teams, as well as community health services.

‘Investment in general practice is the most cost-effective way of providing care to patients, close to home where they want it, and keeping the rest of the NHS sustainable, long into the future,' she said.

Earlier this year, Pulse revealed nine out of ten councils cut spending on sexual health, alcohol misuse and weight management services for 2018/19, after brutal cuts from central government.

In recent months Public Health England called for obesity to become one of three key priority areas in the NHS long-term plan - still under development by the Government - alongside cardiovascular disease and smoking, and said that GPs should measure and record patients’ BMI routinely.


Readers' comments (10)

  • We are confident minister but you are not for your fear of votes. When patients DNA appointments or 2 week waits, the nanny state system tries to blame the GP. This is just another example of GP blaming again.

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  • Dear Mr Spineless Wonder/General Melchett/Whatever,
    You have it within your gift to improve the nation's health by making some good informed legislation regarding access to both good food and bad food, and also alcohol.
    Also try investing in public health instead of deliberately vandalising it.
    The fact that you are unable to do your job properly, puts you in a very poor position to advise others.

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  • Dear All,
    I agree. Ostracise obesity. Look what happened with this approach for alcohol and smoking.
    PauL C

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  • A couple of years ago a patient reported me for delaying a diagnosis of lung Ca by 6 days (unfounded and nothing came of the complaint). My defence union said I should not point out to the patient that they had been informed on 10 occasions prior to the diagnosis to stop smoking and that as well as diagnosing them my other responsibilities in 10 minutes included health promotion...
    We are hamstrung on so many levels when it comes to having an honest debate,it's almost impossible to be "confident".

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  • Angus, I wonder if you realise how ironic you are. I've pointed this out repeatedly. You think politicians and people at the top can't do their job properly, yet you want to throw more money at them in the hope they invest it properly. The solution I repeat again is very simple. Look at places globally with great health outcomes, they are NOT the places with the biggest nanny state. They are places with the biggest personal responsibility to the individual. If the state gives as little subsidies to healthcare provision and welfare to self-afflicted problems, people are less likely to afflict themselves.... duh

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  • Are we not paid for by the nanny state?
    And where are these places with 'great health outcomes' and who is doing the measuring of those outcomes?
    This country has the 4th biggest (ie worse) economic disparity in europe. That is a huge determinant of health outcomes. And that is political -though admittedly the health sec can't do much about it.

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  • This nanny state has put so much responsibilities and making it so risky and toxic to practice the defence union fees for a full time GP is about £14,000 here compared to £200 in Canada. As usual the lawyers win.

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  • |Appraisal junkie | GP Partner/Principal|06 Nov 2018 3:31pm

    Yes we are, and we shouldn't be. Does it seem like we're happy to continue to be employed by the nanny state? If we are, why are so many leaving? Your point about health outcome is right, that the devil is in the detail, and that its difficult to compare like with like. I'd put forth some countries like Japan, Singapore, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, even some European countries like Portugal, Spain, France, spend less per capita on healthcare and achieve arguably similar or better outcomes. Economic disparity/inequality means very little. There's more economic inequality between me vs Bill Gates, than me vs a homeless person but less health inequality in the same comparison. A bigger factor is the measure of absolute poverty, and again, the best way to reduce that, is to maximise free market economy, by minimising state spending/bureaucracy.

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  • Once again, it is not new money, as the promissed 20 billion is being sliced off the budgets of the county councils who used to fund public Health departments, but no longer can.
    And, Christopher Ho, compared to the 'homeless man', you earn almost as much as Bill Gates, and probably don't achieve a much worse health outcome, so I miss your meaning.

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  • Of course you miss it anonymouse, because objectively speaking, I'm closer to the homeless man than Bill Gates is to me. However, you would love to paint it as me being closer to Bill Gates. My point is that it doesn't matter where I or Bill Gates stand, that the more important thing (that the leftists should focus on, instead of envy of the 'rich') is the measure of absolute poverty of the homeless man i.e. minimum living standard. and the West, via capitalism (not state intervention), is the most efficient at reducing absolute poverty globally. Go look at the UN poverty figures.

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