GPs are increasingly being asked to assess if patients are eligible for financial support for energy discounts, or schemes such as home insulation, due to the cost-of-living crisis.
Kernow LMC said it continues to receive reports of GPs being asked for similar assessments and reminded GPs in its area that this would represent non-contractual work.
In a newsletter, the LMC said patients can be re-directed to other organisations who would be able to provide support.
It said: ‘At most, an awareness by a healthcare professional as part of any relevant contact they are already having with the patient, may identify this as a matter where the patient can be directed to one of the many voluntary sector organisations which are also very well placed to manage this need.’
Leeds LMC said that GPs may be asked to complete a form when a local authority has referred a patient that it considers to be living in fuel poverty or on a low income and vulnerable to the effects of living in a cold home.
It pointed out that this work is not covered within the core GMS contract and that practices are entitled to charge for it.
It said: ‘The form asks the GP to consider the patient’s medical health conditions and then recommend one of two routes: households identified as vulnerable to the cold or an individual suffering from severe or long-term ill health.
‘This work is not covered within the core GMS contract and completing the form will require GPs to undertake a proper review of the patient’s notes.
‘As such practices are entitled to charge for the work, as it is not a prescribed form under Schedule 2 of the GMS regulations.’
Dr Richard Vautrey, assistant secretary of Leeds LMC and RCGP president, told Pulse that GP practices, particularly those serving deprived communities, saw ‘all too often the significant physical and psychological implications for vulnerable patients’ when they could not afford to heat their homes during the winter.
He added: ‘Unfortunately the cost of living crisis and the fear of how to cope as another winter approaches is a very real anxiety for many of our patients and schemes like this can be one way practices can direct their patients to some practical support. It’s often social prescribers and other support staff in practices who have been doing this.’
Professor Azeem Majeed, head of the Department of Primary Care & Public Health at Imperial College London, told Pulse: ‘We are seeing more patients in primary care making these kind of requests because of the cost of living crisis we have seen recently.
‘We also get more requests to prescribe medicines that are available OTC on prescription. Many patients have been struggling with increased food and fuel prices, and are looking for ways to manage their finances.
‘We do listen to their concerns and offer support when we can. We have a social prescriber working in our practice who provides information about financial resources and assistance programs.
‘Ultimately, however, these problems can’t be solved by NHS primary care and require government and societal responses.’
Dr Dean Eggitt, chief executive officer at Doncaster LMC, told Pulse that there has been a rise in mental health issues related to financial stressors.
He said: ‘Certainly, there are lots of patients ill with conditions associated with poverty, but we are not often involved in trying to resolve the financial issues.
‘We have a reasonable social prescribing service here in Doncaster and so these patients don’t often get to the GP anymore.
‘Social prescribing seems to have reduced the dependency on GPs to try to resolve these issues, but I don’t really know if has helped patients.’
At the start of this year, Pulse revealed that 22% of GP consultations were mental or physical health problems caused or exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis.
Seven out of 10 GPs have seen a rise since last year in the number of patients presenting with problems linked to the increased cost of living, according to a new RCGP survey.
In May, GPs around the country told Pulse that they were seeing more and more patients coming to ask for prescriptions for over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for minor conditions because they simply have no money to buy them.