That is good news in the form of the NHS Standard Contract 2016/17, which gets hospitals to take a few simple steps which will make a significant difference to GP workload.
We all know the scene, hospitals and GPs are at full stretch, for some time investment has stayed low while demand keeps growing. It's reached the point where GPs are in a state of emergency and hospitals are struggling as well. So, if hospitals can free up a dozens of GP and nurse appointments in every practice just by signing a couple of forms and clicking a few buttons it will make a big difference to the whole system.
The less time GPs spend doing paperwork, the more time GPs have with patients and the more patients who are managed in the community without going to hospital. Looking at the numbers, a GP appointment costs on average £13.50, while a hospital appointment costs £108. If we can free up GPs to see more patients and get those people on the mend without going to hospital then everyone's a winner.
So what are the ways hospitals will be working more effectively with GPs? There are six areas that will be adjusted:
- Local access policies - patients who didn't attend their hospital appointment should now be able to re-book directly with the hospital, rather than needing to be re-referred by their GP.
- Discharge summaries - within 24 hours GPs will get details of diagnoses and treatments from day case appointments or A&E attendances.
- Clinic letters - GPs will now get clear and prompt letters following outpatient clinic attendance.
- Onward referral of patients - different parts of hospitals or even trusts will now pass a patient between themselves to continue treatment or diagnosis of the same condition, reducing referrals back to the patient's GP.
- Medication on discharge - hospitals should now supply patients with medication following discharge from inpatient or day case care.
- Results and treatments - hospitals will tell patients the results of tests directly, normally by phone, text or email, rather than the patient having to book a GP appointment just to collect their results.
Some hospitals have been ahead of the game on the sorts of time saving initiatives, for example Oxford University Hospitals Foundation Trust have a poster reminding patients that they can get fit notes before being discharged from hospital, which I wrote to London hospital trusts to encourage them to display.
Thank you to Central & North West London NHS Foundation Trust and Darent Valley Hospital, who have already responded positively to my letter encouraging hospitals to work with GPs to make these positive changes.
We still have big challenges in general practice, and there are other similar initiatives such as sickness certification that could have been included in the new contract, but we should welcome it when others lend a hand and keep working to meet the challenges we face.