Last reviewed 22 November 2013

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced that, under the agreed contract changes for 2014 to 2015, GPs will be tasked with overseeing the social care for vulnerable patients.

Under the new contract, the Department of Health (DH) said four million patients aged 75 or over will be allocated a named accountable GP and care co-ordinator who will develop and regularly review personalised care plans that will cover their complex health and social care needs. The DH promised that under the changes they are to receive all the treatment they need for their physical and mental conditions. It is not clear yet, however, whether the care co-ordinators will be NHS staff or whether this will be a role for social workers.

Other changes include GPs being required to regularly review care homes’ emergency admissions, and the homes being encouraged to seek GPs’ advice on decisions regarding hospital admissions. Jeremy Hunt said these changes would prevent unnecessary emergency admissions: “This is about fixing the long-term pressures on our accident and emergency (A&E) services, empowering hard-working doctors and improving care for those with the greatest need”.

The new contract for 2014/15 has been agreed between the British Medical Association’s (BMA) general practitioners’ committee and NHS England. It also includes GP responsibilities for offering paramedics, A&E doctors and care homes a dedicated telephone advice line on treatment; co-ordinating care for older patients discharged from A&E and monitoring and reporting on the quality of out-of-hours care.

Royal College of General Practitioners chair Dr Clare Gerada said: “It is not the remit of the College to get involved in contractual negotiations, but we have been calling for this for three years and are pleased that the Government and the BMA have been able to reach a solution that is workable for doctors and, most importantly, focuses our time on improving the care that our patients want and deserve”.

Alzheimer’s Society chief executive Jeremy Hughes said: “Anything that enhances the ability for GPs to give their full support to people with dementia is a positive step forward. We look forward to the revised GP contract equipping doctors with the tools and confidence to ensure timely diagnosis and put care plans in place to help people live with dementia”.

The DH said that it hoped the service will in future be offered to millions more vulnerable people with long-term conditions that need more support.

The changes, which aim to restore “continuity of care”, will reduce the number of quality and outcome framework (QOF) indicators by more than a third, with the majority of this funding being transferred to GP practices’ core funding, and the remainder going to the new agreed enhanced service to reduce unnecessary emergency medicine admissions and provide the personalised care for vulnerable older patients.

The agreement overturns many targets imposed last year, including three out of four of the enhanced services, although the dementia enhanced service will remain.