Mr Hunt, the Health Secretary, announced last week that all people over 75 would have a named GP in charge of their healthcare. The main criticism of the policy I heard was why can’t we all have that? Mr Hunt said he would like to, but had to introduce it gently to work with the GPs. Let’s hope more can benefit from this sensible policy before long.
Last week I visited the Berkshire Health Authority. It was a timely visit. It meant I could support Mr Hunt’s policy, encourage the local service to follow it up in the right spirit, and add some observations of my own concerning home care based on conversations and cases I have had in recent months.
The Health Trust raised the question of what happens when the named GP is away or having time off? The idea of the scheme is that the GP can set up the necessary pattern of treatments, home visits and other services when he or she is in the surgery, and make sure there are arrangements with other parts of the NHS to follow up, with emergency cover for when he is away. Most of this work is not urgent or time critical, so it can be organised in normal hours to the mutual convenience of patient and doctor.
I asked that the local NHS has a good look at how they handle discharges from hospital, or people who are told they need extended home based treatment following examination and diagnosis. I have heard of people who need medical equipment which is supplied without proper instruction on how to use it, or without technical back-up for maintenance and repair. I have heard of people who need supplies of special foods or medical items who do not get the ones they need in a timely way, or get sent the wrong ones, or who have a large delivery with more than they need. Good control of stock, timely delivery of what is required, and reappraisal of need from time to time would make for happier patients and less wasteful expenditure. I pointed out that people have told me the NHS is bad at collecting medical equipment which people no longer need, even to the point of not wanting crutches or other substantial items if people turn up with them at the supplying hospital.
The Health Secretary is seeking to shine a light into the NHS on the basis that greater clarity of what is happening can but lead to better service and in many cases to better control of costs at the same time. I will follow up with Berkshire Health Authority to see how they are getting on in due course.
The Trust told me they have plans to improve Wokingham Hospital as a local centre to provide necessary services in the local area. Meanwhile the new surgery in Wokingham is nearing completion.