GP leaders believe that an update to the standard NHS contract will have a positive effect on attempts to prevent hospitals from dumping work on GP surgeries.
The new provisions in the contract could potentially save millions of appointments, easing the pressure on the beleaguered general practice system.
Change to the contract have become operational from 1st April, with the aim of preventing hospitals from inappropriately transferring standard responsibilities to GP practices.
Fit notes, medication and answering patient queries must be dealt with differently under the terms of the new agreement.
This latest update follows on the back of changes implemented last year which prevent hospitals from forcing GPs to refer patients after missed appointments.
Also included in these alterations to hospital policy was legislation to make hospitals communicate test results directly to patients, while hospitals may now also refer patients on to other departments rather than sending them back to their local GP.
In order to encourage these new changes to be implemented, the British Medical Association has produced template letters and has distributed them to surgeries throughout the NHS system.
However, despite the fact that the rules have become operational, the British Medical Association has warned on more than one occasion that many managers have failed to enforce rules, effectively heaping greater pressure on general practice.
GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul believes that the new changes are absolutely essential in the existing general practice climate.
“GP practices have for far too long had to cope with poor communication and unnecessary bureaucratic workload being directed to them from hospital managers. At a time when general practice is at breaking point from rising patient demand, stagnant budgets and staff shortages, we cannot afford GPs and their staff to be dealing with work that could easily be undertaken by the administrative wing of secondary care.”
Nagpaul suggested that the new changes were indicative of the fact that the government is listening to the concerns of healthcare bodies and experts.
“These new requirements aim to reverse a culture spanning decades, of secondary care passing on inappropriate workload and bureaucratic demands on GP practices. It is a reflection of the success of our lobbying that the GP Forward View dedicated 10 pages to this issue and clearly articulated the need to enable GPs to spend their time on what they should be doing: delivering care to their patients.”
Previous evidence has indicated that patients fail to turn up for 14 million appointments on an annual basis.