Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has laid out major changes to the GP contract, including greater responsibility for out of hours care by next April.
The changes could be in place as soon as 2014, Hunt revealed at a conference on the future of primary care held by think tank The King’s Fund.
Speaking in central London, the Health Secretary told the audience that “profound reform” of the NHS is needed.
He said: “This is the first time I have pulled together a number of strands of the current government’s thinking for reforms of primary care.”
By next April the GP contract will be rewritten to ensure a “dramatic simplification” of targets and incentives, removing the “bureaucratic overlay” to GPs work.
More funding will be poured into general practice to support GPs new responsibilities, coming from savings made by reducing unplanned admissions.
And the new ‘named clinician’ role will cover vulnerable elderly patients from April 2014. GPs would take over responsibility for the patients’ care, ensuring they have proper care plans while proactively managing their care.
Hunt said the role is in fact a return to a more traditional model of general practice.
He said: “From next April I would like to empower those GPs to look after vulnerable older people on their lists, which I think GPs always wanted when they joined general practice.
“To be able to take responsibility for ensuring their patients have proper care plans and for supporting them to look after themselves. TO have the time to contact patients proactively, not just when they walk through the surgery door.”
Royal College of General Practitioners chair Dr Clare Gerada said: “This speech will not end the crisis in general practice. We urgently need a clear commitment for sufficient funding to enable general practice to deliver more services for their patients.”
However, Dr Gerada welcomed Hunt’s intention to “shift the focus” from hospitals to primary care as “essential”.