GPs are in revolt over a drive to spot cancer sooner by making regular visits to care home patients

GPs are in revolt over targets that require them to visit care homes once a fortnight and spot cancer much earlier.

The measures are part of a five-year contract agreed with NHS officials to encourage surgeries to work together to improve care.

But family doctors say the terms are excessive given intense staffing pressures and the demands of a growing and ageing population.

GPs are in revolt over targets that require them to visit care homes once a fortnight and spot cancer much earlier (file photo)

GPs are in revolt over targets that require them to visit care homes once a fortnight and spot cancer much earlier (file photo)

GPs are in revolt over targets that require them to visit care homes once a fortnight and spot cancer much earlier (file photo)

They are particularly worried about a requirement to carry out ‘home rounds’ of the care homes in their catchment area at least once a fortnight, from September.

Doctors say this would be far too time consuming because detailed checks on just one home of 30 residents would take one GP a whole day.

They are also worried about more form-filling, with surgeries asked to record 50 new ‘metrics’, including the number of patients on low-carbon asthma inhalers and the percentage of care home residents who have had a ‘delirium’ review.

Another target requires them to ensure three quarters of cancer patients are diagnosed early by 2028. GPs are being asked to increase the numbers of patients undergoing screening for lung, cervical, breast and bowel cancer.

The targets also instruct them to carry out regular medication reviews on patients with long-term conditions to check they are not taking too many drugs.

Professor Martin Marshall, who is chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘We are very concerned that the amount of extra work required to meet these specifications, combined with the short timescales, makes delivery almost impossible.’

Dr Nicholas Grundy, who practises in central London, said: ‘This level of work is not something which can be taken on by primary care GPs.

‘This is a full-time role for thousands of doctors nationally, delivering an entirely new service on a trial basis to see if it works – and being paid to do so.

The measures are part of a five-year contract agreed with NHS officials to encourage surgeries to work together to improve care (file photo)

The measures are part of a five-year contract agreed with NHS officials to encourage surgeries to work together to improve care (file photo)

The measures are part of a five-year contract agreed with NHS officials to encourage surgeries to work together to improve care (file photo)

‘As it stands, it would be disastrous for patient care, workforce retention and recruitment, and for the day-to-day operation of primary care.’

But Caroline Abrahams of the charity Age UK said: ‘We are hugely supportive of the NHS’s drive to improve healthcare available for care home residents because at the moment they often get a worse service than if they lived in their own homes.’

By yesterday afternoon, 1,355 people – mostly GPs – had signed a petition by the campaign group GP Survival calling for the measures to be redrawn.

A survey by Pulse magazine of 477 senior doctors who run surgeries found that 82 per cent would refuse to sign the voluntary contract.

The five-year deal was agreed by NHS England and the British Medical Association last January but the full details of the new targets were unveiled only last month.

The consultation on the measures closes today and a spokesman from NHS England insisted it was listening to GPs’ concerns.

Another spokesman said: ‘Patients are keen to see further improvements in their highly valued local GP services, and taxpayers are backing these with extra funding in line with the contract GPs agreed in January 2019.’

n A major teaching hospital is considering sending patients home early despite admitting that they might ‘come to harm’.

Managers at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro have drawn up the proposal to ease the pressures in A&E and because there is very little bed space for incoming patients.

Doctors’ leaders said the idea was ‘morally repugnant’ and ‘short-sighted’.

They said patients who are sent home too soon are at risk of developing infections, malnutrition or suffering a serious fall, especially if they are elderly.

An internal memo sent last week explained that managers were considering ‘a number of possible mitigations’ to ease pressure, including looking ‘at the level of risk that clinicians are taking when discharging patients’.

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