HOSPITAL patients with complex long-term problems need a consultant to manage "an entire in-patient care plan", said Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
In a speech at Guy's and St Thomas' hospital he called for the establishment of "whole stay doctors" or named consultants with overall responsibility for a patient treated across a number of departments. He believes this will led to greater continuity of care.
The idea is an extension of his policy to introduce named GPs for patients – starting with over-75s from this April. Said Mr Hunt: "I want to see proper, seamless discharge handovers from named consultants to named GPs with direct communication between both parties to ensure that care is never interrupted."
The Royal College of Physicians is supportive of this view. Commenting on the health secretary’s speech, Dr Anita Donley, clinical vice-president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: "We welcome the secretary of state’s support for a ‘whole stay doctor’ who is responsible for the standard of care delivered to each patient during their hospital stay. The Future Hospital [RCP] report had recommended that there should be a named consultant responsible for the whole of the patient’s stay.
"Patients and carers should know where they can receive information about their care. Every patient should be given information about which consultant is responsible for their care and how they can be contacted."
The BMA was more guarded in its response. Dr Paul Flynn, Chair of the BMA's Consultants Committee, said: "Doctors share the view that patient care should be at the centre of the health service and support the principle of strengthening the doctor-patient relationship.
"Greater continuity of care can improve clinical outcomes and doctors have also called for greater integration between primary and secondary care, and community and secondary care. In addition, doctors have outlined support for more seven-day services to be available and we believe delivering more urgent and emergency care should be the priority.
"Work patterns should promote and support continuity of patient care and where opportunities lie for improvement these need to be explored. It is crucial however that working patterns also safeguard the need for a healthy and productive work-life balance for doctors, as that is also crucial to protecting patient safety and care."