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Patients 'hit by GP target culture'

Patients are being "pushed" into treatments they do not want and denied others by family doctors under pressure to hit targets, according to a new report.

The independent inquiry, commissioned by The Royal College of GPs (RCGP), suggested the target culture in the NHS often meant patients did not get the best care possible and urged the Government to invest more in GPs.

Reacting to the report, RCGP chairman Maureen Baker said the lack of investment had left general practice "withering on the vine", while the report's author Mike Farrar said the British Olympic cycling team should be the inspiration for change.

It said: "All too often, care is poorly co-ordinated, hindered by artificial barriers between services, and structured around the treatment of single diseases - rather than the needs of the individual. As a result, some patients are pushed into interventions that they do not want, while they are denied other forms of support that they need.

"In some cases, high levels of compliance have become a requirement of the regulator. In these circumstances, the GP is under considerable pressure to persuade a patient to accept a certain medicine or intervention."

Among the 46 recommendations made in the report were an end to "tick box" guidelines and a "transformation fund" for general practice, which it claimed only received 8.5% of the NHS budget.

Other recommendations include better use of technology to aid back-office functions and a shift towards more personalised care, while encouraging patients to manage their own health.

Mr Farrar, a former NHS Confederation chief executive said: "There is no magic bullet. Instead, we take inspiration from the British Olympic cycling team, whose brilliant success was underpinned by the concept of 'the aggregation of marginal gains'.

"We set out a number of manageable changes that, when combined, would help to ensure that a truly patient-centred approach is at the heart of our health and care system."

Mrs Baker said: " The sustained growth in the number of patients with more than one long-term condition, coupled with the plummeting level of investment in community care, has left general practice, as we know it, withering on the vine.

"GPs across the country will embrace the call to adopt new ways of working in order to ensure better patient care, but - as this report highlights - this can only be delivered with far greater levels of investment in community care, and we call on the Government to act on this as a matter of urgency."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "We want GPs to be at the heart of their communities' health so we're bringing back named GPs for everyone, and increased funding by 3.5% last year.

"We're also making 10,000 more community healthcare staff available by 2020 and are joining up community care with hospitals with a £5.3 billion fund to treat people better in the community."

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