‘GPs duty does not end on hospital referral’

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SCOTTISH GPs have a duty to continue caring for their patients even when they are passed on to hospital services, doctors have claimed.

In a debate following the Francis Report into the tragedy of unnecessary deaths at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust in England, the British Medical Association conference in Clydebank heard action was needed to make sure it was not repeated elsewhere.

Andrew Cowie, a GP in Tayside, said the incident showed what happened when managers focused on cost efficiency in hospitals but nobody focused on the experience of patients.

“The Francis Report criticised both hospital doctors and the local GPs stating that ‘a GP’s duty to a patient does not end on referral to hospital, but [is] a continuing relationship’,” he said.

Doctors at the conference also called for a change in the culture of the NHS to make it easier for NHS staff to raise concerns about patient safety.

“In practice, clinicians raising concerns are too often treated as irritants,” Dr Cowie said.

Dr Alan McDevitt, chair of the BMA’s Scottish GPs committee, said: “While [the Mid Staffordshire tragedy] happened in England, we in Scotland must not be complacent and instead share the lessons learned. It is essential that we all – politicians, NHS organisations, doctors, managers, nurses and patient groups – work together to develop a different kind of health service where the system will not tolerate poor quality of care.”

The conference also heard GPs warn that the UK-wide review of the benefits system has been a “disaster” for patients.

GPs at the British Medical Association conference in Clydebank said they had seen a big increase in patients whose benefits are being challenged coming to see them as they attempted to reverse decisions to take them away.

Dr Georgina Brown, a GP in Glasgow, said: “The government-driven system to review patients’ benefits has been an embarrassment to the coalition government and a disaster for patients. They are struggling to navigate a system that does not support the most vulnerable in our society.

“Around 40 per cent of appeals are successful. What does this say about a system where they get it wrong at least 40 per cent of the time? The DWP [ Department for Work and Pensions] has a system which is not working and GPs shouldn’t be there to prop it up – it must be sorted out at the root level and fixed.”