Practice nurses must be supported to help improve access to GP services, the Royal College of Nursing has said in response to a Labour Party announcement on access to primary care.
A Labour government would boost primary care services with £100m from savings elsewhere in the NHS, the party’s leader has said in a key speech yesterday evening.
The extra cash for GP services will help ensure all patients get a GP appointment within 48 hours, Ed Miliband said.
“If you’re ill, you shouldn’t have to wait to see a GP. With Labour you and your family will be able to see a GP within 48 hours. Guaranteed,” he said.
Labour said the £100m would come from “scrapping government rules which have led to spending of at least £78m on unnecessary administration and legal fees because NHS services are now under threat from EU competition law”.
A Labour administration would also spend less on Monitor, the NHS Trust Development Authority and Commissioning Support Units.
Labour said research it had conducted with the Freedom of Information Act showed that hospital trusts were spending £31m “on assessing and bidding for NHS tenders” and £21m on “handling competition issues relating to reconfigurations and mergers and acquisitions”.
“Practice nurses are already providing a significant proportion of general practice services”
A further £26m had been spent by clinical commissioning groups on “competitive tendering and external and legal advice relating to competition issues”, according to the party’s research.
Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, noted that providing 48-hour access to practice services “would require a substantial investment, not only in GPs but in the entire practice team”.
“Practice nurses are already providing a significant proportion of general practice services and appointments, and many are already struggling to keep up with demand,” he said. “They would need a great deal more support to enable them to further increase patient access.”
Mr Carter added: “A well supported practice team of GPs, nurses and healthcare support workers can do a great deal to provide patients with the care they deserve and help reduce pressures on other areas in the health service.
“This should include having the right number of staff in the first place, and then supporting those staff with regular training and development.”
Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said she was glad politicians had realised “general practice is now teetering on the brink of collapse”.
“Ed Miliband’s announcement that more money should be channelled into general practice is therefore extremely welcome,” she said.
NHS Confederation chief executive Rob Webster said the NHS was facing “unprecedented pressure” and there was no “magic porridge pot” of funding available.
“It is vital that any proposals to widen care or access are grounded in evidence that they improve patient outcomes and experience at least as well as alternative proposals,” he said. “Labour’s proposals are no exception.”