GPs could save the NHS millions, report finds

 The NHS could save hundreds of millions of pounds each year if general practice improves its quality of patient care, a report by The King’s Fund has found.

A major inquiry found that at least £200m a year could be saved by more efficient prescribing of drugs and £700m by improving the management of medical conditions in the community.

Sir Ian Kennedy, Chair of the inquiry’s panel (pictured), says that GPs must “seize the opportunity” provided by the introduction of GP commissioning to improve services and quality of care.

Improving the quality of care in general practice: Report of an independent inquiry commissioned by The King’s Fund concluded that the majority of care provided by general practice is good.

However, there are widespread variations in performance and gaps in the quality of care delivered which GPs need to improve.

Questions were raised over the variations in the quality of clinical care after analysis found that one-third of patients with stomach or oesophageal cancer that require urgent referral to hospital are given a non-urgent referral.

Differences in the experience of patients and co-ordination of care were also found during the inquiry.

To correct the variations found, the report encourages GPs and other primary care professionals to build on the changes taking place and transform the way general practice operates by:

· accelerating the trend for practices to work as multi-professional teams

· delivering a ‘new deal’ for patients

· accelerating the shift away from small practices working in isolation towards ‘federated’ networks of practices working more closely with one another and with other professionals, and

· practices looking ‘beyond the surgery door’ by focusing on prevention, taking a more active role in public health issues such as obesity, and reaching out to deprived communities.

The report adds that is strongly endorses the principle that GPs should be generalists rather than specialists. But with GPs set to be given the majority of the NHS’s budget and a central role in implementing the Government’s health reforms, it calls for general practice to “embrace radical change” if it is to maintain its international reputation for excellence.

Chris Ham, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund, hoped the findings would “spur” GPs and others working in general practice to accelerate the pace of change.
“Although general practice in this country remains the envy of the world, there is no room for complacency,” he said.

“While many practices have been at the vanguard of innovation and quality improvement, too many GPs remain unaware of significant variations in performance and do not give priority to improving quality.”