Health secretary Jeremy Hunt highlighted problems around sharing patient information as he announced that GPs would "take back responsibility" for out-of-hours care.
In a speech at the King’s Fund yesterday, Hunt said the current GP contract, which came into force in 2004 and removed GP responsibility for patients out of hours, was to blame for pressure on A&E departments.
He also said it had “fatally undermined the personal link between GPs and their patients.”
Announcing that GPs would be given back responsibility for the care of patients around the clock, Hunt criticised the quality of out of hours GP services.
He said in too many cases “you speak to a doctor who doesn’t know you from Adam and has no access to your medical record."
“Is it right that most out of hours providers can’t even access your medical record, even with permission?” he asked.
“We need to go much further, actively combining the best traditions of NHS primary care with the transformative power of modern technology – not just for the benefit of clinicians but also to help patients to manage their own conditions.”
Hunt also highlighted the use of 0844 premium rate numbers by GP surgeries, which he said were supposed to be banned in 2009.
In the speech, which many saw as an attack on GPs, Hunt said that the NHS needs “bold experimentation with integrated care models” and that GPs spend too much time focusing on targets and incentives.
“And with every target or process comes bureaucracy and paperwork. Updating different computer databases, chasing up test results or diagnoses or scanning in letters from hospitals,” said Hunt.
“One GP practice I visited recently actually had a post called ‘head scanner’ because of the volume of letters they receive that have to be scanned-in and linked to a patient’s medical record, a function that takes around six hours every day.”
He said GPs should be the “accountable clinicians”, keeping an eye on every aspect of a patient’s care.
To enable this, he said there needed to be a complete overhaul of how GPs are assessed by the Care Quality Commission without this becoming “yet another tick box exercise."
Chair of the British Medical Association, Dr Laurence Buckman, hit back at Hunt in a speech at the Local Medical Committees conference, saying that the health secretary was more interested in “bashing GPs” than solving problems.
“Despite all the evidence, Hunt continues to tweet that it is all the fault of the GP contract.
"This is because he does not want to bother with the facts when he can have a bash at those of us who, on his own admission, are over-worked and strained beyond endurance,” he said.
Hunt also announced that the Department of Health will appoint a chief inspector of general practice to help “drive up standards of excellence in GP practices.”