Senior GPs yesterday demanded their leaders renegotiate contracts with the NHS to ensure they did not have to spend their time driving to patients’ homes.
The controversial call came after an intense debate at a British Medical Association conference that saw the profession split amid claims the idea was selling its “heart and soul”.
Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, said: “We understand that GPs are under a lot of pressure but older
people living at home are entitled to a full NHS service and that must mean a continued right to a home visit from their GP, whenever this is clinically required.
“There is no suggestion, as far as we are aware, that older people abuse this service: indeed, they are more likely to be stoical and not call out the doctor when they should do.”
The move to end home visits came after Kent Local Medical Committee proposed a motion to the BMA conference in which the “anachronism of home visits” would be removed from English GPs’ core work.
During a passionate debate, Dr Sarah Matthews from Coventry LMC argued GPs were best placed to help patients they had known for years.
“This is a very bad idea. It will sell the heart and soul of our profession away,” she added. “This will allow people to say of us, ‘Those GPs don’t care about us, they don’t care about us when we’re very sick, when we’re very vulnerable and when we’re dying’.”
But Dr Andrew Parkin, from Kent LMC, who proposed the motion, told delegates: “All our patients will benefit, by gaining us that most precious and rare commodity in general practice: time.”
Dr Parkin said a separate acute service should be created to deal with urgent home visits.
The vote at the conference in central London was passed by a narrow margin of 54 per cent to 46 per cent.
The BMA will now have to approach NHS England about changing the GP contract terms.
However, Dr Julius Parker, the BMA GP committee’s lead on contracts, said the likelihood of the change being accepted by NHS negotiators was “extremely low”.
Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said: “NHS general practice has changed immeasurably since its birth 70 years ago, and today’s GP simply does not have the capacity to make home visits as part of a routine surgery day.”
Nikita Kanani, NHS England national medical director for primary care and a London GP, said: “When a patient clinically requires a GP home visit they will get one.”