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HPA accused of ‘palming off’ work on GPs

GPs have accused the Health Protection Agency of 'palming off' work on general practice by demanding 'extensive medical reports' on patients.

Practices in Devon have complained to their local LMC after receiving numerous requests from their regional HPA, demanding they complete extensive reports and interview questionnaires about their patients who have been diagnosed with an infection.

GPs said the requests were causing added strain on their increasing workload, while Devon LMC said that although GPs are required to notify the HPA of the disease, they are under no obligation to complete any additional reports.

In its latest newsletter, Devon LMC said: ‘Given the enormous workload under which most practices are straining, Devon LMC would advise that the usual response should be to decline the invitation to accept this unfunded work.'

Dr Andrew Sant, executive vice chair of Devon LMC, told Pulse he had been told of four cases where the GPs had been asked to interview their patient for a second time, contact their relatives and write an extensive report.

He said one South Devon GP was asked to complete an 80-page report about a patient who had been diagnosed with Hepatitis E.

‘Doctors do have a duty to notify the HPA of the disease. But asking them to get in touch with the family and fill out an 80-page report is not what they are contracted to do,' he said.

‘It is just a money-saving exercise on behalf of the HPA to get GPs to do their work.'

The LMC acknowledged that an amendment to the HPA regulations in 2010 meant GPs are obliged to provide more information about their patient than they were previously, but said the latest demands were not within GPs' remit.

Dr George Kassianos, a GP in Bracknell, Berkshire, andRCGP immunisation lead,said the issue was a national one. ‘The workload is slowly creeping up,' he said.  

An HPA South West spokesperson said: ‘The HPA sometimes ask GPs for additional information about their patients, however we do not expect them to undertake substantial additional work that is not directly related to their patients' care.

‘The South West (South) Health Protection Unit has worked with [Devon] LMC to resolve its concerns after a small number of patient questionnaires were sent to a GP surgery in error.'