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Hunt: Contract reforms next year will mean ‘fundamental change to the role of GPs’

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said his planned reforms to the GP contract will result in a ‘really fundamental change to the role of GPs’.

Mr Hunt made the statement at a King’s Fund conference on the care of older people on Tuesday, making it clear that the new GP role as ‘named clinician’ will be written into the GP contract.

As previously reported by Pulse, Mr Hunt expects GPs to coordinate the care of England’s elderly on a patient-by-patient basis from next April.

Speaking on Tuesday, he said this ‘proactive’ approach would make a big difference to GPs’ working days but that he hoped the changes would ‘simplify rather than complicate’ general practice.

Mr Hunt said: ‘The first thing is that we have to change primary care from being reactive to being proactive, and that means a really fundamental change to the role of GPs.’

‘What I really want to see is a GP who is responsible, via his or her contract, to provide thorough support to the frail, elderly and vulnerable.’

‘But it isn’t just about ticking a box… it is about giving the GP autonomy to deliver a care plan. That is a big change.’

Justifying his plans, Mr Hunt said that he was aiming to free GPs from bureaucratic targets and let them return to being ‘traditional family doctors’.

‘The reality in the GP surgeries that I have been to is that they are rushed off their feet,’ he said. ‘Their ability to deliver proactive care has really been taken away from them… with QOF and DES and LES, that micromanages every second of the GP’s day, and I think we need to think about whether that is getting the most out of 35,000 people in general practice.’

He added: ‘In many ways GP surgeries seem to beat to the same rhythm as A&E departments in that they are basically trying to get through all the people in their surgery.’

‘I think it will be a simplifying change rather than a complicating change.’

In the same speech, Mr Hunt also highlighted that progress was being made towards his 2018 goal of the ‘paperless’ NHS, starting with the sharing of electronic patient records.

He said: ‘I have been promised by NHS England that by the end of next year, a third of A&E departments will have access to GP records, a third of ambulance services will be able to access GP records, and a third of 111 call handlers will be able to access GP records.’

All these measures will form part of Mr Hunt’s ‘vulnerable older people’ plan’, which he said would be published before the end of 2013. But he promised that his reforms would not end there.

He said: ‘I don’t think it will all be rolled out in one year, I think it will take several years to do it.’