PLANS to ensure hospital patients are treated by the same doctor throughout their stay have been welcomed in Worcestershire.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said hospitals in England must ensure the same doctor continues to care for the same patient regardless of which ward they are in.

He said the approach would give patients and their families a greater sense of continuity throughout their treatment rather than seeing a different doctor each time.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust chief medical officer Mark Wake welcomed the announcement.

“There is much to be said for a named consultant in the same way the ‘named nurse’ provides clarity and continuity to people in hospital and their families or carers,” he said.

“Consultants will continue to work in teams rather than as individuals but bringing the medical expertise to the patient rather than the other way around is a good foundation for personalised care.

“Doctors will wish to be involved in delivering high quality medical care rather than merely co-ordinating it but the potential resurgence of general medicine as a speciality in its own right should strengthen the relationship between doctor and patient as it will be the general medical consultant who will be responsible for day to day care.”

Mr Hunt also said the amount of times patients are transferred between wards should be kept as low as possible.

“Every day the first thing I do when I arrive at work is to read and reply to a letter from someone whose NHS care has gone wrong,” he said. “Of course I know that for every mistake there are many instances of superb care, but as health secretary I want to know where the problems are because I want to sort them out.”

A recent survey by the Royal College of Physicians found nearly a quarter of consultants rated their hospital’s ability to deliver continuity of care as poor or very poor.

Mr Hunt said the changes were about changing both the structure and the culture of how hospitals operate.

“Getting the right culture means reasserting a simple truth – every patient is a person,” he said. “A person with a name. A person with a family.

“Not just a body harbouring a pathology, not a diagnostic puzzle, not a four-hour target or an 18 week problem, not a cost pressure and most certainly not bed-blocker.”

President of the Royal College of Surgeons Professor Norman Williams said: “We have to end the situation where patients are shuttled from one member of staff to another.”