Digital phonelines a positive step says RCGP

  • Date: 18 August 2023

DIGITAL phonelines are a positive step but there is “dire need” of more GPs, says the Royal College of GPs in response to a Government announcement that more than a thousand GP practices in England have signed up for digital upgrades.

A £240 million investment will fund the wholescale switch from analogue systems, which can leave patients on hold and struggling to book an appointment.

Practices on older systems are pledged to receive an average investment of £60,000 each to move onto digital phones, combined with updated digital tools and support for the transition.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “With the support of NHS England, general practices, pharmacies and dental surgeries, backed by significant investment from the government we will bring an end to the 8am scramble for appointments.”

However the RCGP still sees a “long way to go”. Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs said: “GP practices will be pleased to see some practical improvements coming through from the long-awaited Primary Care Access Recovery plan, announced in May. An updated digital telephony system will be an asset to many practices who are currently working with outdated analogue systems which are hindrance to both GPs, their reception staff, and patients. We all want an appointments booking system that is streamlined, efficient and allows GPs to focus on delivering care to their patients.

“However, while this is an encouraging step forward, there is still a long way to go, and we must not be under any illusion that this will resolve the fundamental challenges facing general practice. The bottom line is that we desperately need more GPs, so that we can offer the appointments that our patients need.

“GPs are working under the most enormous pressures and demand for our services is growing at the same time as our numbers are falling – there are more than 900 fewer GPs in England alone, than in 2019. Alongside the pledges to modernise outdated systems and attract more medical students into general practice, we desperately need to see concrete plans for improved retention initiatives that will encourage existing GPs to stay in the profession. New digital phonelines will be of little benefit to patients if there simply aren’t enough fully qualified GPs on the end of the line to provide appointments.”

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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