Tick-box GPs ordered to spend more time with your patients: Family doctors told to focus on dementia sufferers or lose funding
GPs will be rewarded for helping patients control blood pressure and cholesterolThey will have to concentrate on spotting early warning signs of illness and dealing with long-term conditions
Critics say the changes could be 'deeply damaging' to patientsThey are expected to result in cuts to GP pay

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UPDATED:

12:08 GMT, 7 December 2012

Family doctors will have their pay for doing ‘tick-box exercises’ slashed to encourage them to spend more time on preventing serious illnesses.

Plans unveiled today show that GPs will instead be rewarded for helping patients to control their blood pressure and cholesterol, preventing heart attacks and stroke and assessing patients at risk from dementia.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said they would no longer be rewarded for ‘bureaucratic tick-box exercises’ and will have to concentrate on spotting early warning signs of illness and dealing with long-term conditions.

Family doctors will be encouraged to spend more time on preventing serious illness by being rewarded for helping patients to control their blood pressure and cholesterol

'Bureaucratic tick-box exercises': Family doctors will be encouraged to spend more time on preventing serious illness by being rewarded for helping patients to control their blood pressure and cholesterol

One such initiative will involve every GP compiling a list of patients who may be at risk of dementia, such as those over 65 with heart disease or neurological conditions.

They will then be expected to offer them a memory test – and their financial reward could depend on whether the patients decide to take it.

Other funding will depend on preventing frail patients from deteriorating and needing emergency hospital care. Around 164million saved by the changes could mean 1.5million more patients will receive better care in 2013-14, rising to 3.5million by 2014-15.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will focus on early diagnosis of dementia and supporting patients with long-term conditions

His priorities: Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will focus on early diagnosis of dementia and supporting patients with long-term conditions

Mr Hunt said: ‘Getting patients an
earlier diagnosis of dementia and supporting those with long-term
conditions are my main priorities. I want GPs to take the lead in making
this happen.’

However, the
British Medical Association, which represents GPs, says the changes
could be ‘deeply damaging’ to patients and will be an enormous strain at
a time when wholesale NHS reorganisation is due to start.

It has reached a stalemate in discussions with the Government, which is holding a 12-week consultation on the proposals.

The current GP contract, approved by Labour in 2004, enabled family doctors to opt out of evening and weekend work, while new rules on bonuses pushed the average GP’s income over 100,000.

Critics claim it left some patients with poor-quality out-of-hours locum agencies, while MPs said the bonus scheme made it too easy for GPs to earn big money.

The scheme – known as the Quality and Outcomes Framework, or QOF – is now set to change, with some activities such as administrative work no longer rewarded.

The bar for payments will be raised elsewhere, including for the numbers of patients monitored and levels of treatment achieved for conditions such as diabetes.

The changes are expected to result in cuts to GP pay – now 104,000 a year on average.

The British Medical Association says the changes will negatively effect patients and put strain at a time when wholesale NHS reorganisation is due to start

'Deeply damaging': The British Medical Association says the changes will negatively effect patients and put strain at a time when wholesale NHS reorganisation is due to start

NHS doctors are already in dispute with the Government over plans to change pensions and this summer staged their first strike in 40 years.

That protest was highly unpopular with the public, however, and the BMA is disinclined to repeat it.

The group says the proposed changes will lead to increased workloads when GPs will also be faced with implementing new commissioning groups in England, from next April.

Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA’s GP committee, said: ‘This could make it difficult for some practices to maintain the level of care they currently offer, let alone increase their capacity to meet the demands of these new proposals.’

Of the consultation, he said: ‘We hope ministers intend to engage in a meaningful discussion and that they will act on concerns that are raised.’