The NHS, with support from the Department for Health and Social Care, has published a blueprint for the improvement of access to GP appointments for patients. It seeks to support GP surgeries in increasing the number of face-to-face appointments, tackle abuse against staff and levelling up performance. Problems such as patients having difficulties contacting GP surgeries, variations in practice performance, long waiting times and unavailability of appointments are challenges that are to be addressed. Additional funding will be provided to surgeries, including a £250 million winter access fund from NHS England. This is in addition to £270 million invested over the previous 11 months to expand capacity and support GPs.
Locums will be funded through the investment, and capacity boosted for urgent same-day care. Support from other health professionals, including physiotherapists and podiatrists will also increase as a result. The Government is seeking to reduce administrative burdens on GPs by reforming “who can provide medical evidence and certificates such as FIT notes and DVLA checks – freeing up time for more appointments”.
A new survey option via text will be offered to patients after they receive GP care services. This is currently being trialled in 60 practices across the UK and is to be rolled out nationwide next year. A zero-tolerance campaign of abuse against NHS staff, including GPs, is being developed by the NHS, Government and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.
“This plan will give our dedicated general practices the support needed to increase capacity, boosting the number of appointments for patients to see and speak to their GP practice”, said Health Minister, and former nurse, Maria Caulfield.