Jan Tregelles MencapMencap has cautiously welcomed the government’s announcement of a new GP Contract, but want more clarity on how it will impact on people with a learning disability.

The new GP Contract, most of which will be active from April 1, 2014, was announced by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt last week. It contains a raft of measures designed to improve care.

Measures outlined in the new contract include the introduction of an ‘enhanced service’ for patients with complex health needs to avoid them being unnecessarily admitted to hospital or A&E. This will involve a telephone service line where providers can ring GPs to decide whether or not the patient needs to be admitted.

There will also be a reduction of more than a third of the Quality Outcomes Framework (QOF), which dictates how GPs should test and treat patients for specific conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. The government hopes that this will improve patient care as doctors will be trusted to use their professional judgement and make decisions based on what each individual patient specifically needs, taking all their conditions into account.

“This [GP Contract] is about fixing the long-term pressures on our A&E services, empowering hard-working doctors and improving care for those with the greatest need,” Hunt said.

Jan Tregelles, CEO of Mencap, said the charity broadly welcomed the new GP Contract, but added that there was concern over how these will benefit people with a learning disability. 

“In particular we welcome that care homes will have a dedicated telephone line to GPs. GPs will also regularly review emergency admissions from care homes to avoid unnecessary call-outs in future and will monitor and report on the quality of out-of-hours care.

“Recent research has shown that 1,200 people with a learning disability die avoidably within the health service every year.  This is the equivalent of three people dying needlessly every single day. A third (37%) of deaths of people with a learning disability are due to them not getting the right health care. Patients with a learning disability experience delays in diagnosis, delays in treatment, lack of basic care and poor communication by health professionals. This is unacceptable.

“We are encouraged by Government measures to try and address this problem. However, it is unclear at this time, how these specific measures will impact on the 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK.  We will continue to engage with the Department of Health to ensure that people with a learning disability get the high quality health care they deserve.”