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Hunt pledges to restore ‘personal link’ between GPs and patients

The ‘personal link’ between GPs and their patients will be restored from next April through introducing a named GP responsible for care for all vulnerable older people, pledged the health secretary in his speech to the Conservative party conference.

Jeremy Hunt said that the changes would mean that patients had someone to ‘champion’ their care and would correct the ‘mistake’ made in the 2004 GP contract.

Mr Hunt also pledged to give the CQC statutory independence from Government to prevent ministers putting pressure on the regulator to cover up failings.

He also claimed that plans released earlier today to pilot extended access to GPs in the evenings and at weekends would restore the ‘family doctor’.

In a speech to delegates at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, the health secretary said that transforming care out of hospital was the ‘one big change we need’ and called for a move towards preventative care, rather than curing illness.

He added that the GP contract introduced by Labour in 2004 saw a move away from named GPs, and in doing so ‘destroyed the personal link between patients and their GPs.

He also re-iterated his pledge for vulnerable, older people to have a named GP to champion their care, and said this would happen from next April.

He said: ‘Trust between a doctor and patient is what professionalism in the NHS stands for, and we should have never have allowed that GP contract to undermine that.’

‘So from next April we’ll be reversing that mistake for introducing a named GP responsible for care for all vulnerable, older people. Someone to be their champion in the integrated health and social care system we’ll be implementing from April following George Osbourne’s announcement in July. Restoring the link between doctor and patient, joining up the system that allowed too many people to fall through the cracks.’

A named clinician, along with plans for piloting extended opening hours announced today, will see a return to the idea of a ‘family doctor’, he said.

He told the conference: ‘We need to rediscover the idea of family doctors, making GPs more accessible for people at work as today’s announcement about piloting 8-8, seven day opening will do. But also giving GPs the time and space to care proactively for vulnerable, older patients. The people on their lists who are most ill, so they can keep tabs on them and help them stay well for longer.’

He also blasted the failures at Stafford Hospital - which he said were ‘covered up’ by Labour. He will introduce legislation as party of the Care Bill so that the CQC would be free from future political meddling in future, he said.

He said: ‘Today I can announce a major reform that will stop Labour or any Government ever trying to cover up poor care. We’ll legislate in the Care Bill to give the CQC statutory independence, rather like the Bank of England has over interest rates, so ministers can never again lean on it to suppress bad news.

‘The care of our NHS patients is too important for political meddling. Our new legislation will make sure ministers always put patients first.’