Plans to boost GP evening/weekend appointments

Plans to boost GP evening/weekend appointments

The announcement, made over the weekend, of a £550m investment is made up of:

- £100m addition to the existing £50m Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund

- £250m infrastructure fund for new buildings, treatment rooms and IT

- £200m transformation fund for 29 pilots to integrate services offered by hospitals, GPs, and care homes.

The government said the 2015-16 funding would deliver on the promise of a new deal for primary care, as highlighted in the NHS Five Year Forward View published last year.

In October 2013, the Prime Minister announced the Challenge Fund to improve access to general practice and 20 pilots were announced which began mobilising in April 2014.

In October of last year, it was announced that a further £100 million was being allocated for a second wave of pilot schemes. This has since been expanded to £125m using Primary Care Infrastructure Fund money to achieve further improvements in areas such as IT.

As part of the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund, an additional 37 pilot schemes across England will now be able to improve access to care for over 10.5m patients as part of the expansion of the Fund.

Bringing together the two cohorts, the government said there would be 57 pilots covering more than 18m of England’s population (a third of the country) in more than 2,500 practices.

These patients would, by March of next year, be offered more evening and weekend, video, email and telephone consultations – the equivalent of 8,000 more appointments a day.

In addition, more than 1,000 GP practices across the country have had bids approved for funding in principle as part of the first tranche of the £1billion, four-year Primary Care Infrastructure Fund.

This funding is intended to help improve premises to benefit both patients and professionals working in primary care, either through making improvements to existing buildings or by creating new ones.

The infrastructure fund is also paying for a £10 million GP workforce plan that is intended to help set a clear direction for the future of general practice and make it easier for GPs to return to the profession following a career break, while also encouraging more medical students to take up careers as GPs.

Finally, the transformation fund money (announced in the Chancellor’s autumn statement) will go to 29 pilots known as vanguard areas, that will test out three new models of care such as integrated primary and acute care systems (PACS).

Dr Maureen Baker, RCGP chair, said: “The response by GPs to both the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund and the Infrastructure Fund, has been very positive.

“It shows that hard-working family doctors want to – and will – do more for their patients, if they have sufficient resources to do so. For too long, general practice … has struggled to meet rising patient demand with decreasing funding and resources.

“This announcement shows that with more funding, GPs and practice teams can improve access to our services and continue to alleviate pressures across the health service by delivering care to patients close to home, where they want and need it most.”

By Adrian O'Dowd,

OnMedica, Monday 30 March 2015

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