Could GPs be paid to get patients back to work quicker?

A top NHS England official has suggested that General Practice could request funding from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to ensure patients return to work sooner than later.

Professor Keith Willett, national director for acute episodes of care, said the NHS could ask the DWP for funding to enable GPs to get people back to work quicker. Willetts explained, ‘Getting a patient in to see a GP quickly and issued with a return to work certificate could save the government two weeks of benefits payments.’

Though the suggestion has taken some by surprise, Willett further builds on his statement by stating, ‘In the same way as health has given social care the Better Care Fund, and said “come and help us out”, we could, arguably, go to work and pensions and say “excuse me, we can get them to work seven days quicker. Can we have some of your money to be able to do that?”.’

Willetts states that GP capacity is the ‘number one workforce issue’ for GPs, as prevalent throughout the NHS recently, workloads have increased and the public health structures that are in place are struggling to meet patient needs.

NHS could have patients return to work sooner

NHS could have patients return to work sooner

The concerns surrounding primary care and its limited capacity to cope with shifting more care out of acute settings has been at the core of the issue. Willetts’ suggestion could help solve this in theory, or at the very least improve matters.

Though Willetts feels he cannot ask GPs to take on any more work than they have, he does want them to be ‘conductors’ of the ‘out-of-hospital orchestra’. The DWP funding would enable a quicker return to work for patients via their GPs, and this would be the first step of many in equipping GPs to be the ‘conductors’.

Whether his suggestion will be considered, remains to be seen.

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