The government has welcomed a suggestion by the national clinical director for health care, Dr. David Colin-Thome to permit general Practitioners (GPs), or family doctors to expand their services. This will include performing small operations such as that for hernias, cataracts, varicose veins and other minor problems.
According to Thome, this is an effective way to improve patient care, increase efficiency as well as cut costs.
The suggestions follow the government's recent policies aimed at bringing patient care closer to home.
Says Thome, "Patients trust GPs. We're highly trained, offer high quality cost-effective services and our communities respect us, so why aren't we doing even more? Our training allows us to spot the first signs of cancer, give advice on weight loss and deal with depression.
"So expanding the services GPs, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and other key staff such as physiotherapists provide in our communities and homes makes sense. And economically it makes sense too."
Thome also envisioned the pressure being taken off hospitals and their roles as being centers of excellence, which provide expertise and specialist medical care.
Though he welcomed the suggestion, Dr. Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the GPs' committee of the British Medical Association said that this would have to wait till GPs were given more resources such as staff expansion and infrastructure, in order to make it 'clinically appropriate' for a GP to carry out such services.
In response to the report Ms Hewitt the health secretary welcomed the suggestion and admitted that the government's own research suggests patients are in favor of services closer to their homes.
"Services on their doorstep are more convenient, keep people out of hospital and are a more efficient use of NHS resources", she added.