Extended opening hours and enhanced local care for the elderly will soon be available at GP surgeries across many parts of England, the prime minister has announced.
David Cameron said more than 7.5 million people will be offered increased access to GP services through extended opening times and new consultation methods using video-phone services, email and phone.
“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”
The £50m GP Access Fund will mean that patients at 1,147 practices across England will be able to access services outside of working hours, including late night and weekend appointments or use one of the modern consultation tools for convenience.
Mr 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,” he said.
Mr Cameron also announced plans to enhance care services for the elderly under its Transforming Primary Care programme.
Around 800,000 people over the age of 75 and those with more serious health complaints will get personalised care, he said.
These patients will be offered a proactive enhanced service. This will include individual care plans that will be regularly-reviewed with patients and carers by GPs and nurses, a named GP responsible for their care, and same-day access to a GP when they need it.
The Department of Health said the programme would be supported by dedicated funding of almost £500 per patient and a commitment to train 10,000 more frontline community staff – including GPs, nurses and other professionals – by 2020.
“Community nursing teams are already working under a great deal of pressure with too few resources and too few staff”
In response, Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Taking action to improve access to GP services and personalised care is a positive step and will play a vital role in keeping people out of A&E.
“GPs are an important part of this solution – they do however work as part of a team with practice and district nurses, who offer a wide range of care, from one-off advice to helping people manage long-term conditions and keeping people out of hospitals,” he said.
“Community nursing teams are already working under a great deal of pressure with too few resources and too few staff.”
He added: “The promise of 10,000 more frontline staff will be welcomed by these nurses, but the fact that there is little detail about where they will come from and how they will be resourced is extremely worrying.”
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association’s general practice committee, said: “These changes will need to be properly supported.
“The government must take further action so that community, social and urgent care work in tandem to deliver truly holistic care to patients.
“Ministers must also deliver on their commitment to increase resources in the community so that there are more GPs, nurses and other health and social care services to provide coordinated care to the escalating number of patients who need care closer to home,” he said.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: “The big problem with this new plan is that it won’t benefit millions of people.
“For the vast majority who are outside of this scheme, things will carry on getting worse and they are being told to expect to wait a week for a GP appointment. No wonder more and more people are turning to A&E, which has just had its worse year in a decade.”