NHS sets out blueprint for improving patient access to GP appointments

The NHS has published a new plan that it hopes will help improve patient access to GP appointments, as well as support practitioners and primary care teams.

The blueprint, released yesterday, was worked on in collaboration with the Department of Health and Social Care.

According to NHS England, the plans include providing surgeries with ‘additional funding’ to ‘boost their capacity’ and enable them to offer more face-to-face appointments and urgent same-day care.

The publication is part of a ‘major drive’ to support general practice and includes ‘efforts’ to tackle abuse against staff.

Described as a ‘package of assistance’, the document includes measures such as a £250 million winter access fund from NHS England. The NHS says this will enable GP practices to ‘improve availability’ so that ‘patients who need care can get it, often on the same day if needed’.

The investment is intended to fund locums and support from health professionals such as physiotherapists and podiatrists, as well as provide extra resource for walk-in clinics, with a focus on increasing capacity.

However, the announcement stresses that local health systems will be ‘free to determine how best to tackle particular challenges’ and the ‘provision of care in their own community’.

It adds that those practices which do not meet the aim of providing ‘appropriate levels of face-to face-care’ will not be able to access the additional funding, and will instead be offered ‘support to improve’.

Other parts of the plan are an upgrade to telephone systems, reforms on who can provide medical evidence and certificates like FIT notes and DVLA checks with the intention of freeing up GP time, greater oversight of GP practices with the most ‘acute’ access issues, and the development of a zero-tolerance campaign on abuse to staff.

NHS England also noted changes to collection and publication of GP data, with ‘GP appointment data to be published at a practice level by spring next year’. It also adds that, following a roll-out next year, patients will be able to rate their practice’s performance through text message.

Amanda Pritchard, Chief Executive of the NHS, said: “Improving access to high quality general practice is essential for our patients and for the rest of the NHS too.

“It is a personal priority and today NHS England is taking both urgent and longer term action to back GPs and their teams with additional investment and support”.

To read the plans in full, click here.