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GP home visits – a necessity, not an indulgence

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Doctor and patient Some GPs have described home visits as an anachronism, but they go to the core of the care the NHS should provide

In England, GPs have voted to remove home visits from their core work, they are reported as saying family doctors no longer have the capacity to provide them, with one doctor expressing home visits are 'an indulgence of time we can rarely afford'. The majority of delegates at the Local Medical Committee (LMC) England Conference supported a proposal to remove home visits from the doctors’ key contract.

It was the Kent LMC who called for the change to the GP contract, an independent body working with the BMA helping to develop policy. It was argued that GPs no longer have the capacity to offer home visits and the BMA’s General Practitioners Committee (GPC) should renegotiate with the NHS to “remove the anachronism of home visits from core contract work, negotiate a separate acute service for urgent visits”. It is expected that the GPC will now petition NHS England to stop home visits being a contractual requirement. The move will mean that GPs, who earn an average wage of £105,000 for partners, may well call for home visits to be outsourced to other parts of the NHS, or for extra payment for GPs to carry out such work. The message this sends out is that they are abandoning the frail and elderly, no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid. NHS founder Aneurin Bevan's talk of 'stuffing of doctors’ mouths with gold' quickly comes to mind.

This is an absolute disgrace. Home visits are core to the clinical work of the GP – the family doctor and should not be dismissed as an inconvenience, seen as taking up too much of their time driving around the country, causing them too much aggravation, an add on or seen as just plainly – as hard work. What a sad indictment it is of our society when GPs say they no longer have the capacity to offer care to the most vulnerable, those who are housebound and elderly, frankly, they should just pack up and go home. I am aware that not all GPs will be in favour of this but, when the GPC tabled this and it resulted in a landmark vote, it the collective who were in favour.

The BMA GP committee chairman said that health officials from NHS England would have to find a way to make sure patients who needed home visits got medical attention. District nurses, community nurses, primary care nurses you have no idea how proud I am of you and the work you do. I am in awe of your commitment to the vulnerable and frail – watch this space.

What do you think? Leave a comment below or tweet your views to @IndyNurseMag

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I work in Palliative care and GP visits are vital for this group of patients and so very helpful.
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