Cutting red tape will free an extra 3.2 million doctor appointments

27 Jun 02
GPs have urged the Department of Health to implement immediately proposals that would slash their paperwork and enable them to see another 100 patients each per year.

28 June 2002

A report from the Cabinet Office's Regulatory Impact Unit published this week said up to 3.2 million GP appointments in England could be saved by removing unnecessary form-filling in areas such as repeat prescriptions, housing applications and disability benefit claims.

Making a difference: reducing burdens on general practitioners – second report identified 19 areas where appointments are made for routine or non-medical reasons. It says the biggest saving could be found by issuing one prescription for long-term, stable conditions which could then be dispensed in instalments by pharmacists.

It is thought that between 60% and 75% of prescriptions are repeats and replacing them would save GPs 2.7 million hours a year. Pilots of the initiative are due to start in the autumn and should be extended nationwide by 2004.

Nurses could be given greater prescribing rights, while GPs should limit their role in social housing and disability applications to clinical details, it adds.

Dr Peter Holden, one of the British Medical Association's representatives on the report's advisory panel, said: 'It is now time for the Department of Health and Department for Work and Pensions to turn these ideas into firm action. Hard-pressed GPs will wish to see these measures implemented without delay.'

The report follows a similar study published in March last year that found 7 million appointments could be saved through such simple changes as reducing the number of medical reports for life insurance and removing the expectation that GPs would sign sick notes for short periods of absence from work.

Freeing the appointments identified in the two reports would be the equivalent of hiring an extra 1,200 GPs.


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