The National Association of Care and Support Workers has slammed a vote by GPs to remove home visits from their core work.
The organisation argued that GP home visits are “essential” for vulnerable people to remain well at home and for social care workers to ensure their clients’ safety.
GPs have voted to reduce visits to patients’ homes, saying they “no longer have the capacity” to offer them.
It means British Medical Association (BMA) representatives will lobby NHS England to stop home visits being a contractual obligation.
However, Karolina Gerlich (pictured), a home care worker and CEO of NACAS, said it is vital that people with limited mobility are treated at home, in order to avoid unnecessary trips to A&E and “traumatic” stays in hospital.
She also argued that home care workers are obligated to call 999 if a GP refuses to visit their client with a clinical need.
“If someone has an eye infection, for example, and a GP can’t see them, we have no other choice but to call 999 because the 111 response is too slow. We have a duty of care, as home care workers, to stay with the client until we know that the appropriate treatment will be provided,” she explained.
“If we have to extend our stay with the client then this has a knock-on effect on our other visits. So we have to call 999, but this is also a huge waste of resources when someone is forced to visit A&E unnecessarily. Hospital stays can be a traumatic experience, particularly for the older population, and patients can become frailer as a result.
“GP home visits are essential for the integration of health and social care, and should be increasing as the number of older people choosing to remain at home is increasing.”
Kent Local Medical Committee, an independent body which works with the British Medical Association (BMA) to help shape policy, called for the change to the GP contract.
It said representatives from the BMA should renegotiate with the NHS to “remove the anachronism of home visits from core contract work, negotiate a separate acute service for urgent visits, and demand any change in service is widely advertised to patients”.
The group added it did not want to completely scrap home visits, as “more complex, vulnerable and palliative patients” were “best served” by GP home visits.
But health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has said the idea is a “complete non-starter”, and he was firmly opposed to the plan.
“The GPs had a vote on what their opening negotiating position should be for the next GP contract. The idea that people shouldn’t be able, when they need it, to have a home visit from a GP is a complete non-starter and it won’t succeed in their negotiations,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
UKHCA policy director Colin Angel told Home Care Insight that the overall outcome from any changes to a GP contract must maintain a system that enables people to remain well at home.
“We recognise that many GPs are under considerable pressure. It is really important that people at home can access primary care, particularly where they may need support from family or social care workers,” he added.