Headlines: March 20th, 2001

The Government claims that millions of hours of GP time will be saved as a
result of its latest initiative to improve the lot of family doctors.

Doctors in general practice are seen as an essential element in the success
of the NHS Plan. But more doctors are needed and those already working
have been shown in recent surveys to feel undervalued and overworked.

‘Making a Difference: Reducing General Practitioner (GP) Paperwork’
delivers 36 practical measures that will reduce the amount of unnecessary
paperwork that GPs have to contend with.

The savings in time have been worked out as equivalent to 7.2 million
appointments or 750,000 hours of GP time, or one appointment per day for
every GP.

GPs will no longer be expected to counter-sign driving licence or passport
applications, or to provide jurors with a certificate to excuse them from
jury service.

The power to certify incapacity for work will be extended to nurse
practitioners subject to successful pilots later this year; and the number
of medical reports produced by GPs for life insurance companies is being

Doctors’ leaders say that some of the changes will have as much affect on
morale as on time actually saved. They point to the impact on a busy
doctor’s morale of people taking up appointment slots purely to have the
doctor sign a form.

There are some new integration ideas in the report that cut out unnecessary
paperwork – the sick certification process will be integrated into the
hospital discharge process so that hospital doctors and consultants will
not refer patients to a GP solely for the purpose of getting a sickness

Doctors and patients’ organisations have been involved in drawing up the
changes, among them the BMA, which has worked with the Cabinet Office
Public Sector Team on the report.

That working together is not over. The next step is for the BMA’s team to
agree with the Public Sector Team what areas should be focussed on next for
streamlining general practic