NHS England has announced an additional £250 million is to be given to GPs to increase the number of appointments this winter.
The new Winter Access Fund will pay for locum, or self-employed GPs, to work more shifts in GP surgeries. It will also be used for appointments with non-medical staff such as physiotherapists and podiatrists and advanced nurse practitioners.
The objective is to increase the number of same-day appointments for patients to address the growing anger over the difficulties faced by patients in getting GP slots.
According to NHS figures, 58 per cent of GP appointments are made face-to-face, most even on the same day. During the pandemic and as a result of encouragement by NHS England and the Department for Health and Social Care, many GPs adopted digital and telephone appointments.
In July last year, then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that all initial GP appointments “should be teleconsultation unless there is a compelling clinical reason”.
And the NHS’s long-term plan, published in 2019, puts forward proposals to be given a “digital-first” option for all patients to access GP care, should they want it.
NHS England said its new scheme to support GPs will also aim to tackle increasing abuse of doctors and staff. The Granthshala has previously highlighted the pressure and increasing demand on GPs as fewer GPs serve a growing population with increasing demand for health care.
NHS Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard said: “Improving access to high quality general practice is essential for our patients and also for the rest of the NHS.
“This is a personal preference and today NHS England is taking immediate and long-term action to support GPs and their teams with additional investment and support.”
A new survey from YouGov shows that two-thirds of people would prefer a face-to-face appointment, with 25 percent saying they wouldn’t mind which format is used.
Dr Julia Grace Patterson, from the EveryDoctor campaign group, said: “Last year it was emphatically stated by the Secretary of Health that it was a bit of a shock for GPs that all appointments should be via telephone, and now we are told the exact opposite and , in fact, has been blamed for the volume of telephone consultations.”
She said “inflammatory” rhetoric about access to GP services was leading to “abuse” of staff and pointed to the 2021 GP patient survey, in which 83 per cent of patients in England said their experience was “good”. .
The survey of nearly 850,000 patients across England also found that 82% said they were “satisfied” with the appointment they were given – up from 73% a year earlier.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid said: “I am determined to ensure that patients can see their GP the way they want, no matter where they live.
“Our new plan provides general practice teams with investment and targeted support. It will tackle poor performance, reduce pressure on staff so they can spend more time with patients, and increase the number of face-to-face appointments.
“At the same time we are establishing more measures to combat abuse and harassment so that GP surgery staff who work tirelessly to care for patients can do so without fear for their own safety.”
The NHS England plan, clarifies that every GP practice should seek patients’ input and respect their preferences for face-to-face appointments unless there are good clinical reasons.
Local areas will be free to decide how the money is spent, although NHS England suggested it could be used to set up walk-in hubs in the community.
GP practices that do not provide adequate face-to-face appointments will not be given access to funding.
NHS England said the cash would also be used to upgrade telephone systems and avoid long waits on the phone for patients trying to talk to staff.
Other changes include reducing the admin burden on GPs to fill out fit notes and DVLA checks.
GP surgeries will also be given new advice on transitioning to social distancing so that more patients can be kept in their waiting rooms.
The NHS has said that GP appointment data will be published by the practice from spring next year to increase transparency and patients will be able to rate their practice by text message.
Ministers have promised 50 million more GP appointments by 2024, with 6000 more GPs and 6,000 more practice nurses and other staff.
Professor Martin Marshall, President of the Royal College of GPs, said: “The pressure on staff facing normal practice has been going on for a long time. We need to make good on the government’s manifesto pledge of an additional 6,000 GPs, and another 26,000 primary care professionals. to enter the workforce by 2024.”
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /