The NHS has announced winter funding of £250m for general practice to ‘increase the proportion of appointments delivered face to face’, it has announced today.
But the BMA has said that the package is ‘flawed and patient care will suffer as a result’.
A statement released by NHS England has said the money can be used by practices to fund ‘locums and support from other health professionals’, including physiotherapists and podiatrists.
Practices that ‘do not provide appropriate levels of face-to-face care’ will not be given funding, the statement said, but would be ‘offered support to improve’.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said that he was ‘determined to ensure patients can see their GP in the way they want, no matter where they live’, and said the plan will help tackle ‘underperformance’.
This package follows months of lobbying from sections of the media for practices to see patients face to face, while Mr Javid said it was ‘high time’ GPs offer more face-to-face appointments.
The statement said:
- the NHS will increase its oversight of practices with the most acute issues in relation to access, with GP appointment data to be published at practice level by spring next year as opposed to CCG level, as it currently is.
- patients will get the opportunity to rate their practice’s performance, via text message, based on their most recent experience of accessing support
- There will be a focus on ‘increasing capacity to boost urgent same-day care’
- The NHS will support ‘upgrades to telephone systems’
- The Government will ‘reduce administrative burdens on GPs’ by reforming FIT notes and DVLA checks and who can provide them.
- There will be practical steps on infection control measures in GP settings, as trailed yesterday
- The NHS, the Government and Academy of Medical Royal Colleges will develop a zero-tolerance campaign on abuse of NHS staff, including GP teams.
BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘After weeks of promising an “emergency package” to rescue general practice, we’re hugely dismayed that whilst additional funding has been promised, the package as a whole offers very little and shows a Government completely out of touch with the scale of the crisis on the ground.
‘GPs and their teams will now be facing the worst winter for decades, and as a result, patients’ care will suffer. Appointments will be harder to book, waiting times will get longer, more of the profession could leave and GPs will struggle to cope.
‘It is also disappointing to see that there is no end in sight to the preoccupation with face-to-face appointments; we need a more intelligent conversation about the variety of appointments and care that are available to patients to meet their needs.’
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.’
This story was published by our sister publication, Pulse.