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Labour plans for patients to compare and switch GPs via NHS App

Labour plans for patients to compare and switch GPs via NHS App

Under the Labour Party, the NHS App would see a function added so patients could view GP performance and switch to the top provider.

On a trip to Singapore last week, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting told The Times that the NHS App should also enable patients to see their records, book appointments, self-refer to specialists, and order prescriptions.

Since the end of October, GP practices have been contractually obliged to provide patients with automatic access to prospective records – but NHS England recently revealed that 20% of practices are not yet compliant. 

Labour’s plan for patients to see which GPs are performing best on certain conditions and switch practice accordingly is similar the Conservative Government’s policy two years ago.

Former health secretary Thérèse Coffey’s plan for patient access sought to equip patients with information, such as practice-level performance data, to help them make ‘informed choices’ about where to take up GP services.

But Pulse’s recent investigation revealed data on patient registration which suggests that this type of ‘consumer’ behaviour among patients has actually decreased significantly over the last five years.

Mr Streeting has also committed to slashing QOF and IIF, citing the 55 targets GPs are measured on and saying this red tape makes them ‘miserable’.

He would then use this money to incentivise GPs to provide better continuity of care, a plan he announced in August. 

‘If you’re measuring 55 things, you’re really not measuring anything at all. You’ve got to have some sharp priorities and I’m happy to be guided by GPs about what measures they would drop to redirect the money,’ Mr Streeting told The Times. 

Mr Streeting’s plans for expanding the NHS App draw inspiration from Singapore’s system where the use of technology and data in healthcare is more advanced than in the UK. 

He hinted at replicating an app in Singapore which encourages users to make healthier lifestyle choices in exchange for points that can be spent in supermarkets and activities. 

The NHS App should also be used for patients to hold GPs and other clinicians to account by giving patients an outline of the care they should expect to receive for conditions like asthma and diabetes, according to Mr Streeting.

GP spokesperson for the Doctors’ Association Dr Steve Taylor told Pulse the plan for patients to compare GP performance is unlikely to ‘work’ because ‘all practices are overwhelmed’ so patients will encounter the same problems even if they move.

He said: ‘Patients can already move around, that’s already possible. There’s no benefit at all in Wes Streeting promoting it because that choice is already there.

‘I think in some ways it’s failing to address the biggest issue, which is the lack GP cover, under the guise of promoting patient care. He’s making a statement that in theory supports patients, but in practice does nothing to help them.’

Chief executive of Humberside LMCs Dr Zoe Norris said that Mr Streeting’s proposal reveals a ‘fundamental lack of understanding’ about how societal factors can impact GP care.

She told Pulse: ‘The ability of a GP working in an area of high deprivation with significant health inequalities to manage a condition perhaps related to smoking or obesity is going to be very different to the ability of a GP in a neighbouring leafy, affluent suburb.

‘And while the GP working in the more challenging area may be doing an incredible job, their treatment and their success is compounded by the effects that are at a societal level and are nothing to do with how good or bad that individual GP or their practice are.’

‘So suggesting that we can fence off a single disease and its management from everything else that impacts on the health of the population is either incredibly ignorant or incredibly short-sighted,’ Dr Norris added.

The shadow health secretary has been clear that his priority for the NHS is reform rather than funding injections, and he has now claimed that the NHS uses winter as an ‘excuse’ to lobby the Government for more money. 

He said: ‘I don’t think it’s good enough that the NHS uses every winter crisis and every challenge it faces as an excuse to ask for more money. 

‘The NHS is going to have to get used to the fact that money is tight and it’s going to have to get used to switching spend, and rethinking where and how care is delivered to deliver better outcomes for patients and better value for taxpayers’ money.’

This year, the Government’s £200m winter pressures funding pot announced in September did not include general practice.

And Pulse revealed earlier this month that only a small number of ICBs have directed local funding towards GP practices to deliver additional winter capacity. 

As well as cutting targets, Labour would also seek to free up GP time by ending pointless referrals, such as when consultants send patients back to their GP in order to be referred on to a different specialist. 

Last week, Labour announced it would conduct a shake-up of GP services to create new ‘neighbourhood health centres’, which seem to resemble the party’s old ‘polyclinic’ model, known as Darzi centres. 

At the Labour Party conference earlier this year, the shadow health secretary said he now recognises the ‘value GP partners provide’ after spending time in general practice.

He also said he has not yet reached a ‘firm conclusion’ on the future of the GP partnership model, but that current GP partners have ‘no reason to worry’.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

blue doc 11 December, 2023 1:02 pm

Truly awesome idea. As if NHS is not in a deep enough hole already, here comes Labour with a shovel to help dig the hole deeper. Lunatics

blue doc 11 December, 2023 1:07 pm

On the plus side, it wouldn’t take long before all the disgruntled and demanding patients pile onto the so called “better” surgeries and level out the field !!

Adam Crowther 11 December, 2023 1:32 pm

Race to the bottom? Who wants to be top and overwhelmed with registrations especially as it takes at most 3 months to catch up with list weighting numbers and thus means to less than adequate resource. Everyone will be praying for the blissfully unaware well non attenders. Good one Wes 🤦🏼‍♂️

Liam Topham 11 December, 2023 1:37 pm

“Mr Streeting has also committed to slashing QOF and IIF, citing the 55 targets GPs are measured on and saying this red tape makes them ‘miserable’.”
For once I find myself in complete agreement with Wes – nice choice of verb as well – not reducing, or limiting, but “slashing”
This offers a fragile flicker of hope amidst the darkness ..

David Banner 11 December, 2023 2:26 pm

So, in a small town they have Surgery A and Surgery B.
-A could not replace retired GPs, and are struggling.
-B is just about managing for now.

So a load of patients from A, using Streetings’ app idea, suddenly move to B.
-A loses a drastic amount of income and is on the verge of collapse
-B struggles to handle the extra work, standards fall, targets are missed, new patients think it’s worse than A was.
-when A finally collapses, B can no longer manage. The exhausted partners hand their contract back, an APMS provider takes over, now it’s skeleton services all round and nobody can ever see a doctor.

Not a great plan.
Here’s a stupid idea. How about funding both A and B properly and supporting them to find staff and provide a better service for everyone??

Leonard McCoy 11 December, 2023 2:38 pm

Beware of promises to slash QOF without income being guaranteed. Primary Care and General Practice are not synonymous when it comes to funding streams. Labour have history: eg when GP premises funding became part of a wider Primary Care “envelope”.

Sam Macphie 11 December, 2023 2:41 pm

Will even more GP surgeries than ever then close their lists? Too many changes made by unthinking politicians, civil servants and NHSE, and then come the unintended consequences, disasters caused by these actions. The ‘not so merrygoround’ goes round. The unthinking Conservatives and the so-called Buffoon Johnson, Hancock, government, NHSE decided to not allow close relatives, supported by proper protection, into homes, hospitals to see and hold the hand of dying relatives during Covid; on the most human, individual level (and considering the topical Covid inquiry), a very important example of changes, measures introduced by unthinking politicians put upon the people of this country and impacting individuals, families and GPs.

Douglas Callow 11 December, 2023 2:41 pm

DB agree but sadly there is
an integration agenda
proposed darzi like centres and Wes still hasn’t come clean on what he really thinks about the NHS

SUBHASH BHATT 11 December, 2023 5:30 pm

Always ask patient why they want to change gp. Their expectations may not be fulfilled by new practice..

Merlin Wyltt 11 December, 2023 6:28 pm

He is saying nothing new
Patients already choose which GP surgery to join
The vast majority choose the closest to where they live
A few disgruntled will chop and change

If he wants patients to refer themselves to secondary care that’s great
Good luck with the waiting list

The NHS is chronically underfunded. No amount of “efficiency” or tinkering with the data will improve the situation

Waiting lists will grow. A&Es will be overwhelmed and cancer care will continue to be the worst in Europe

It’s a sad state of affairs and an unpleasant environment to work in

win win 12 December, 2023 7:47 am

No one should ever become a gp in the UK. Definitely leaving uk
… to hell with this ,

Centreground Centreground 12 December, 2023 12:14 pm

Could we add a function to the NHS App that allows us to switch from hopelessly misinformed, inexperienced and incompetent health secretaries with limited NHS knowledge and who live in a fantasy world just as easily!

A Non 13 December, 2023 5:27 pm

I’m confused why ‘increased productivity’ will somehow improve the NHS’s woes. So I guess we want individual GPs to see more patients? Diagnose more illness? Prescribe more treatments? Make more referrals? Maybe if we get hospital surgeons to perform more operations too? Radiologists to do more Xrays? Rheumatologists to give more biological injections? And lets include pharmacists , get them giving more immunisations. Lets massively ramp up the productivity of our NHS work force..more product please! Sure to save us all a fortune, and make us all RICH!! ..hang on. this is an organisation who’s product costs us all money. The more productive the system is, the bigger the bill. This isn’t a money making enterprise ..its a money spending one. I really don’t think the capitalists running it all quite get that bir. We just all need to be more productive and shut up already. We’re all screwed and I know why

Slobber Dog 13 December, 2023 8:49 pm

There would have to be significant changes in working practices for this plan to succeed.
Unlikely to happen.

Anonymous 16 December, 2023 5:05 pm

Change GP with one click. Oh wait, I made a mistake, let’s go back. Click. I don’t like the new GP, let’s find a better one. Click, click.