A severe shortage of GPs means practices have to make difficult decisions about where best to allocate their time and resources and that includes home visits, according to the Royal College of General Practitioners.

The statement is in response to Local Medical Committee proposals on the future of home visits to be put forward at a conference of the British Medical Association that would see the duties removed from the standard contract for GPs.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "GPs and our teams are under enormous pressure and are working flat out to try and keep pace with rising patient demand. But for some of our more complex and vulnerable patients, home visits are an invaluable, and often the only, means of seeing their GP.

"We are very supportive of proposals to train other members of the GP team such as physician associates and advanced paramedics to carry out home visits as appropriate, but they are not a substitute for GPs and it is vital that patients who need the skills of a GP are able to access them."

Changes need to be sensitively communicated to patients

She added that ultimately, this proposal will be for the BMA, as the doctors' union, to decide, but it would need a lot of consideration and any changes would need to be widely and sensitively communicated to patients.

"Meanwhile, we would urge our patients requesting a home visit to consider very carefully whether they really need one, so that valuable GP time is spent most wisely on those patients who need it most."