PATIENTS in England needing a GP appointment should get one within two weeks, according to new government plans announced by the Health and Social Care Secretary Thérèse Coffey.
The new Our plan for patients sets out an expectation that anyone who needs an appointment should get one at a GP practice within two weeks – and patients with the most urgent needs should be seen within the same day.
It also sets out plans to publish data on how many appointments each GP practice delivers and the length of waits for appointments, to “enable patient choice”.
The range of services available from community pharmacies is promised to be expanded, with pharmacists managing and supplying more medicines without a prescription and offering simple diagnostic tests – “freeing up GP time for more complex needs of patients”.
The plan also sets out £500 million of additional funding for adult social care to help speed up the safe discharge of patients from hospital into community care this winter to free up beds and help improve the flow in emergency departments and reduce ambulance delays.
The government is also promising changes to NHS pension rules to retain more experienced NHS clinicians, and funding of £15 million this year to help increase international recruitment of care workers.
The Royal College of GPs has expressed criticism of the new plan. Prof Martin Marshall, Chair of the RCGP, commented: “Lumbering a struggling service with more expectations, without a plan as to how to deliver them, will only serve to add to the intense workload and workforce pressures GPs and our teams are facing, whilst having minimal impact on the care our patients receive.
“Access to our services is important, but it is only a starting point to ensuring our patients receive the safe, personalised, and appropriate care they need. Around 85 per cent of appointments in general practice are already happening within two weeks of being booked, with 44 per cent being delivered on the day they are booked - both higher figures than in 2019 – and those taking longer than two weeks after booking may be routine or regular appointments for which the timing is therefore appropriate.
"We also need more details about the proposal outlined to publish more practice-level data. Whilst we support transparency we strongly caution against creation of a 'league tables', which we know from international research evidence do not work in improving access to or standards of care. Different GP practices will serve different patient demographics, who will have differing health needs and services will be tailored to meet these.
“Today’s announcement is not a plan. We need to see the implementation of a new recruitment and retention strategy that goes beyond the target of 6,000 GPs pledged by the Government in its election manifesto, funding for general practice returned to 11 per cent of the total health spend, investment in our IT systems and premises, and steps to cut bureaucracy so that we can spend more time delivering the care our patients need and deserve.”
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