Extended opening hours and enhanced care for the elderly will soon be available at doctors’ surgeries across many parts of the country.
Millions of people will now be able to see their family doctor outside of working hours, including late night and weekend appointments, while the elderly and those with more serious health complaints will get tailored care, coordinated by just one local GP.
The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens have set out the proposals for:
More GP access – More than 7.5 million people in England will be offered increased access to their GP services, including seven-day opening and 8am-8pm appointments. The Prime Minister’s £50 million GP Access Fund will support 1,147 practices covering every region to offer extra services for those who struggle to find appointments that fit in with their family and work life. GP groups have responded enthusiastically to the call for ideas on how to modernise services and will now bring in a variety of forward-thinking services to suit busy lifestyles, including greater use of Skype, email and phone consultations for those who would find it easier. The Fund was originally expected to help just 500,000 people but has been expanded as a result of a high level of interest from surgeries across the country.
Personalised care for the most vulnerable – 800,000 people with the most complex needs, mostly aged over 75, will also be enrolled onto a separate Transforming Primary Care programme of proactive, personalised care in the community. These patients will be offered a proactive enhanced service including: individual care plans reviewed regularly with patients and carers by GPs, nurses, carers and other health professionals; a named GP responsible for their care; and same-day access to a GP when they need it.
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, said:
Back in October, I said I wanted to make it easier for people to get appointments that fit in around a busy working week and family commitments.
There has been a great response from doctors, with lots of innovative ideas, and we will now see over seven million patients given weekend and evening opening hours, alongside more access to their family doctor on the phone, via email or even Skype.
This is an important step and good news for patients.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:
Moving nearly a million people onto proactive care plans is one of biggest changes that we need to make in our NHS. People want to know that their parents and relatives will get constant care if they have a long-term condition.
Many doctors already give great care but I want to make sure this is completely co-ordinated to head off problems and keep people from going to hospital unnecessarily.
Extending GP opening hours and offering more services online will also make it far easier for millions of hardworking people and their families to fit seeing a GP around their busy lives.
Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England said:
By freeing up hard working family doctors to spend more time with their sickest patients, and by making it easier for other patients to get through to their GP surgery for help and advice at evenings and weekends, these initiatives have the potential to be a win-win-win for patients, their doctors and the NHS.
People are living longer with more complex needs, which is putting pressure on the NHS. The 4.2 million people over 75 in England is expected to rise to 6.3 million by 2026. And by 2018, three million people will have three or more long-term conditions. However, more than a quarter of people with long-term conditions say they are not well cared for by the NHS, and two-fifths say they expect their care to get worse over the coming years.
These plans represent the start of a fundamental shift in care from hospital to home, in which people will be given more on-going support to better manage conditions in the community rather than being admitted to hospital.
Other GP services that will be rolled out from May into next year include:
Electronic prescriptions and online booking of appointments
Easier, on-line registration and choice of practice
Joining-up of urgent care and out-of-hours care to ensure rapid walk-in access to care
Greater flexibility about how people access general practice, for instance with the option to visit a number of GP surgery sites in their area
Better access to ‘telecare’ to help sick people stay comfortable at home, as well as to healthy living apps
The Transforming Primary Care programme will be supported by dedicated funding of almost £500 per patient in GP time and a commitment to train 10,000 more frontline community staff, including GPs, nurses and other professionals, by 2020. The enhanced service also includes:
Offering paramedics, A&E doctors and care homes a dedicated hotline to advise how to treat patients quicker
Coordinating care for vulnerable patients discharged from hospital
Reviewing how individual patients’ can avoid emergency admissions in future