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Department/GP Communications

Volume 458: debated on Monday 12 March 2007

12. If he will make a statement on steps being taken to modernise communication methods between his Department and GP surgeries. (126373)

We are aware of the critical importance of the role of GPs in shaping customers’ perceptions about their ability to return to work, and we are piloting the use of employment advisers in GP surgeries to give patients advice about the work-related support and to offer them non-medical help to achieve their work aspirations. To assist GPs, we also have two projects testing the electronic transmission of data between GPs and our Department via a secure link. We are also developing educational and training packages in conjunction with the Royal College.

Can the Minister tell me what else is being done to help GPs get their patients back to work and whether the Government will consider allowing those not fully fit for work to attend very short part-time training courses to enable them to get back to work more quickly?

Yes, we are doing a variety of things. As I think my hon. Friend will know, we are testing the pathways advisory service—indeed, the pilot is in east Lancashire, close to her constituency. We are also piloting the electronic transfer of data to facilitate the process for GPs. As I said in my earlier answer, we are developing education and training packages. My hon. Friend makes a very helpful point in respect of the further assistance that we might offer and I would be happy to look further into it.