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'Overwhelming' GP national targets to be cut from NSFs

The Government is to cut the number of central targets it sets in national service frameworks in favour of local health goals.

Future NSFs will be slimmer documents with a focus on improving care through local initiatives, Department of Health officials have decided. The policy shift was welcomed by GP leaders who said existing frameworks had 'overwhelmed' GPs.

The NSF for long-term conditions, due next year, will be less than 40 pages compared with the 400-plus page framework for coronary heart disease. It will also contain no more than 12 standards.

Andy McKeon, director of policy and planning at the department, has told the external reference group for the framework that national target setting and high-level monitoring are 'not the only, or even necessarily the best way, of achieving progress'.

GPs' progress towards NSF targets will be monitored by primary care trusts, the Commission for Health Improvement and patient surveys.

Dr Mayur Lakhani, RCGP director of quality, said GPs had been 'overwhelmed' by previous frameworks. 'They were big tomes that GPs are only just getting their heads around. If you see a whole series of NSFs it's going to demoralise you.

'We shouldn't lose sight of national standards,' added Dr Lakhani, a GP in Loughborough, Leicestershire. 'But how we get there and how

fast we get there are local

decisions.'

Dr Julian Neal, chair of the GPC primary care development sub-committee, said he hoped the changes would reduce the burden on GPs. 'I just hope this is not a false dawn,' said Dr Neal, a GP in Purbrook, Hampshire. 'The overwhelming plethora of targets has not been helpful.'

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