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GPs need incentives to tackle unhealthy lifestyles, say top DH advisors

By Nigel Praities

GPs should be given greater control and more cash for helping patients take up healthier lifestyles, according to a report from advisors to the Department of Health on how the NHS can improve health and wellbeing.

The independent report – from three leading figures in public health and local government – says GPs need a ‘renewed vision’ with greater incentives to improve public health.

The Enabling Effective Delivery of Health and Wellbeing report says reductions in NHS spending due to GPs ‘assertively’ addressing lifestyle risk factors such as smoking, obesity and alcohol consumption should be passed on in the form of larger PBC budgets, and the QOF should be rewritten to focus more on case-finding and early interventions into disease.

The report – authored by NHS Tower Hamlets chief executive Ms Alwen Williams amongst others – also encourages GPs to be more forceful with patients about their lifestyle risk when they first register with a practice. It also calls for practices to have direct access to interventions such as psychological therapies and weight management programmes for adults and children through Choose and Book.

‘A renewed vision for the future role of general practice needs to be developed in consultation with the RCGP, the NHS Alliance and other key partners,’ the report says.

‘Models for general practices should be explored, in which the ‘deal’ for signing on with a particular practice includes the GP assertively addressing behavioural risk factors with patients – similar to the approach taken by some health maintenance organisations in the USA.’

‘It should be supported by the development of tools to identify the reductions in healthcare expenditure that will result from reductions in behavioural risk factors in the practice population (such as smoking), in order to illustrate the potential savings to practice-based commissioning budgets,’ it adds.

Lifestyle factors such as alcohol consumption should be targeted by GPs