League tables will compare GP surgeries as patients are given a new right to demand face-to-face appointments.
Under the new plans, patients will be able to rate their GP practice’s performance via text message.
The NHS is ploughing millions of pounds into a new package of measures aimed at improving access to GPs, but practices which fail to provide an “appropriate” level of face-to-face appointments will not be eligible for the new funding.
The British Medical Association (BMA) condemned the plans, with General Practitioners Committee chairman Dr Richard Vautrey saying: “GPs across England will be truly horrified that this is being presented as a lifeline to general practice, when in reality it could sink the ship altogether.”
The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) called on the Government to fulfil its manifesto pledge of an additional 6,000 GPs and 26,000 other primary care professionals in the workforce by 2024 – a target that is highly likely to be missed.
Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the RCGP, said: “We know some patients prefer to see their GP face to face – but good care can and is being delivered remotely and some patients prefer it.”
The plan for improving GP access in the UK
The blueprint for improving access, published by NHS England working closely with the Department of Health and Social Care, includes a number of measures including:
- The new investment will fund locums as well as support for GPs from other health professionals such as physiotherapists and podiatrists.
- The NHS said GP practices must “respect preferences for face-to-face care unless there are good clinical reasons to the contrary”.
- Local health systems will be given some freedom to determine how to tackle access problems, which could include “walk-in consultations”.
- But the NHS will “increase its oversight” of practices with the most acute issues in relation to access, it said.
- GP appointment data will be published at practice level by spring – so people will be able to see how well their surgery performs compared to others. The NHS said this will “enhance transparency and accountability”.
- Practices which do not provide “appropriate levels” of face-to-face care will not be able to access the additional funding and will instead be offered support. Though it is not clear what the level of appointments need to be face-to-face.
- The money will help upgrade GP surgery telephone systems – which will hopefully drive down long waits on the phone.
- The Government will reform who can provide medical evidence and certificates such as fit notes and DVLA checks – freeing up more time for appointments.
- Infection control will be assessed which is likely to lead to social distancing in practices being changed or downgraded.
- Patients will also be able to see different types of clinicians in general practice including nurses, pharmacists and paramedics.
Sajid Javid explains new approach for NHS surgeries
Mr Javid said: “I am determined to ensure patients can see their GP in the way they want, no matter where they live.
“I also want to thank GPs and their teams for their enormous efforts in the most challenging times in living memory.
“Our new plan provides general practice teams with investment and targeted support.
“This will tackle underperformance, taking pressure off staff so they can spend more time with patients and increase the number of face-to-face appointments.
“Alongside this we are setting out more measures to tackle abuse and harassment so staff at GP surgeries who work so tirelessly to care for patients can do so without having to fear for their safety.”
The new blueprint will also include action on new efforts on how to tackle abuse of staff.
The NHS said it will work with the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges to develop a zero-tolerance campaign on abuse of NHS staff, including GP teams.