Exclusive GPs could be given cash incentives to ensure they provide patients with continuity of care for 60% of the time, under plans being considered by NHS England.
The Family Doctor Association has pitched that a ‘continuity of care allowance’ should be offered to GPs by the Government, in a bid to financially incentivise continuity in practices.
FDA chair Dr Peter Swinyard said that Ben Dyson, director at NHS England and health minister Earl Howe were ‘very interested’ in the proposals that he claimed will lead to ‘improved patient satisfaction and reduced secondary care costs’.
The proposal follows evidence that patients who establish longer relationships with GPs are less likely to require outpatient hospital treatment and that boosting continuity by 1% could save £20k per GP practice over one year.
Dr Swinyard said the scheme could be monitored through the clinical computer systems already in place in practices across England. A simple search query would be able to pull out the records of whether patients in a practice have seen the same GP at least 60% of the time within a given year.
Dr Swinyard suggested that a pilot of the scheme would be ‘quite simple.’ Computer queries in practices could be compared against secondary costs in a defined area, ‘for at least a year’, to map whether improved continuity has decreased patient’s use of services in hospitals.
He said: ‘This is such a straightforward idea but it could be one that is really good for patients and really good for practice.’
He argued that the 60% target is where‘research shows’ the tipping point between good and poor continuity of care.
He said: ‘It allows for the fact that sometimes patients want the quickest, not the best doctor, or that doctors may be on training or holiday leave.’
But the move comes as NHS England suggests GPs should provide more appointments in the evening and at weekends, under its suggestions on how to address ‘growing dissatisfaction’ with access to practices put out for consultation last month.
Dr Beth McCarron-Nash, GPC negotiator, said: ‘There needs to be a balance between convenience of access and continuity of care. What we need is core funding – so we can actually deliver our services. This needs to be considered very carefully.’
An NHS England spokesman said: ‘We have no current plans for a continuity of care allowance. We are, however, very keen to explore a range of ways to support general practice in providing more personalised, proactive care, particularly for patients with more complex health needs.’