New Plan Aims to Free Up 15 Million GP Appointments

Health officials in England have released a plan for ‘recovering access to primary care’ this week, which aims to reduce the difficulty patients face when trying to book a GP appointment.

This new plan comes amid increasing concerns about the availability and quality of GP services. In the latest GP patient survey, 13% of people rated the service at their local practice as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.

It is hoped that the new plan for primary care – which encompasses GPs and community pharmacies – will make it easier for patients to get the care they need without having to go further afield.

Pharmacists to be given more prescribing powers

As part of the new plan, people will be encouraged to use the services of their local pharmacist under a Pharmacy First initiative. This will involve pharmacists being given greater power to administer drugs for common conditions like earache, shingles and sinusitis.

There will also be a greater focus on disease prevention in community pharmacies.

NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard said there are plans to “massively expand the number of people who can have high street blood pressure checks”, meaning fewer people will be at risk of heart attacks or strokes.

But there are concerns that pharmacies will not be able to cope with this new demand. According to BBC analysis, there are now fewer local chemists than at any time since 2015. This has largely been put down to operational costs, staff shortages and reduced government funding.

In response, Pritchard has said that pharmacy services will receive £645m over the next two years to boost staffing and resources.

GP surgeries will get £240m to modernise systems

As well as investing in pharmacy services, the government plans to give general practices £240m to modernise their services.

NHS England have said that within the next year, nine in 10 people should be able to access their GP records on their smartphone. This means that patients will be able to check things like test results without having to call their local practice.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak has welcomed the plans to update GP systems, saying they will “end the 8am rush” of patients trying to make an appointment. It’s expected that part of the latest investment will be used to modernise call systems so that multiple calls can be handled at once.

But Labour shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has criticised this latest move. In response to the prime minister’s comments, he said: “The reason people can’t get a GP appointment is (because) the Conservatives have cut 2,000 GPs. Better hold music isn’t going to change that.”

Thousands more GPs will be recruited before March 2024

One of the key goals set out in the new plan is to deliver on the government’s commitment of recruiting 26,000 more direct patient care professionals in general practice by 31 March 2024.

But for many practices, the progress made in this area hasn’t been fast enough. Dr Laura Edwards, who heads up the GP committee for Portsmouth, told BBC News that the number of GPs in place was “woefully inadequate”.

She went on to say that the government should “stop focusing on access and be honest that there isn’t the service there that we need”.

The Royal College of Practitioners shared the same opinion, stating that although there were “some encouraging initiatives”, change would not happen overnight and thousands more GPs need to be trained and retained.

The importance of primary care

GPs are often the first people we will speak to when a health issue arises. Having access to a GP means you’re more likely to receive an early diagnosis and effective treatment if something is wrong.

But sometimes health professionals can make avoidable mistakes. If your condition has worsened as a direct result of delayed diagnosis or a misdiagnosis, you could have a medical negligence claim.

Our friendly advisors are available to provide advice if you think you could be entitled to compensation. Get in touch with us on the number at the top of the screen or start a claim online to find out more.


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