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Administrative Burdens (GPs)

Volume 596: debated on Tuesday 2 June 2015

Before I respond, I should like to thank my two predecessors, who have covered most of this portfolio: my hon. Friend the Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter) and the right hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb). They have given me a firm foundation on which to build, and I am grateful to them for their work in the Department. Reducing the burden of administration on GPs is important to all of us in the Government. We have already cut the quality and outcomes framework by more than a third to help reduce administration, but we are looking for ways to do more because we recognise that this is a significant problem.

Let me take this opportunity to welcome my right hon. Friend back to the Front Bench. I know that he will want to spend a lot of time in GP surgeries, and we look forward to welcoming him to Lincolnshire in due course.

I want to ask him about the use of information technology and computers during consultations with GPs. I am told by a GP in my constituency that so much time is spent collecting data and inputting them into the computer that there is a loss of focus on the patient, with a possible detriment to patient care. Will my right hon. Friend undertake to look into that and to come to the House in due course to say what can be done to ensure that, during every GP consultation, the focus is always on the patient and not on the computer?

Notwithstanding the importance of recording information collected during a consultation, my hon. and learned Friend’s constituent is absolutely right that it should not get in the way of the relationship between doctor and patient. We have already removed some of the administrative burdens by cutting a third of the quality and outcomes framework indicators that need to be recorded, but plainly more needs to be done. He is right to say that I am looking forward to seeing quite a lot of GP surgeries in the forthcoming months.

I welcome the Minister to the Dispatch Box. Does he think that the community pharmacy could help in great ways with the proper integrated care of patients so that the burden on GP surgeries is shared with other health professionals?

Yes, the whole concept of out-of-hospital care involves an expansion of what is considered to be direct primary care, and it also involves other support services. I am aware of projects in which pharmacies are already connected directly to GP surgeries. We will be expanding some of the pilot work that has already been done. If my Twitter account is anything to go by, pharmacies are very keen to promote themselves and say what they can do for patients, and we will certainly be responding.

Will the Minister pass on my thanks to the Secretary of State for visiting a GP surgery in my constituency in April? Will the Minister assure the House that during his tenure he will continue to visit GPs and to spread examples of good practice to other GPs who may have room for improvement?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question, and the Secretary of State will have picked up his thanks for the visit. Seeing GPs is really important. I will let the House into something that I am likely to say again, which is that my dad is a GP. I pay tribute to him, as he has just passed his 93rd birthday. I thank him and all other GPs for their devotion to practice and to looking after people so well. They are a vital part of the service. I will be keen and rather soft on GPs. I want to see them enjoy their profession as much as my father has enjoyed his.

I welcome the hon. Lady to her place. Briefly, there is a £1 billion fund to improve, over the next five years, GP surgeries and premises and access to GP practices. It is an important part of the process of improving access to GPs, which is good not only for patients but for GPs, who can feel fully engaged in their work without being overburdened. This support should certainly help.