Jeremy Hunt has backed plans for a chief inspector of general practice, to be based in the Care Quality Commission.
HSJ had previously reported the CQC’s intention to appoint a chief inspector for primary care - in addition to similar roles for hospitals, and for social care - but it had not been backed by ministers. However, the health secretary has now given the plan his backing.
But the Department of Health was this week due to say the new chief inspector will devise and implement a new system so GP practices will be given ratings, such as those used by the schools inspector Ofsted, and will champion patients’ interests.
Speaking on Thursday at a leadership summit held by think-tank The King’s Fund, Mr Hunt will announce plans to implement the “rigorous system of inspection” to ensure that GP practices are providing “effective and responsive care”, a Department of Health spokeswoman said.
Mr Hunt will also embellish on plans to provide one-to-one care for elderly patients.
He will say that getting care can be “confusing”, especially for older people who need more than one service.
The minister is expected to tell delegates that patients feel there is “no credible alternative” in out of hours care, so are forced to attend accident and emergency wards - contributing to the current pressures on A&E units.
He will say: “As a member of the public, I want to know my GP. And I want my GP to be someone that knows me and my family.
“Yet we’ve turned GP practices into places where it’s a daily challenge for receptionists to cope with huge call volumes and GPs to get through to all the people they need to see.
“I do not blame NHS staff for this. They are working extremely hard in the face of rising demand, in fact it’s they who are telling me how much better things could be organised.”
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham accused Mr Hunt of “constantly pointing the finger” at GPs and blaming them for the difficulties in A&E departments in order to deflect attention from the government’s failings.
“A&Es have gone downhill sharply over the last couple of years on Mr Cameron’s watch,” he told ITV Daybreak.
“I would say it is because of the job losses in hospitals, it is because of the failed introduction of the 111 service but mainly it’s these huge cuts to council social care which mean that older people aren’t coping at home and they are going into hospital in ever greater numbers.”
He added: “When we left government in 2010, 98% of people were seen within four hours in accident and emergency departments, that was some six years after the GP contract came in.
“Last year we have seen a huge deterioration in those standards.
“Clearly something else is driving this.
“The internal advice to Jeremy Hunt does not blame GP services for the crisis in A&E - it says it is cuts to social care, job losses, it is the failed introduction of 111.
“This government is trying to shift the blame from problems of its own making.”