GPs in England will be offered an extra £250m to help them see more patients face-to-face this winter, The Health Secretary Sajid Javid is expected to announce today
Those failing to offer sufficient in-person appointments will be denied access to the fund according to reports
The Health Secretary will also announce a review of social distancing in GP’s surgeries
Mr Javid will say he is “determined to ensure patients can see their GP in the way they want, no matter where they live”. He will add: “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.”
Javid is also expected to promise an “NHS covenant” laying out society’s obligations to healthcare staff, modelled on the armed forces covenant, as well as zero tolerance for patients who abuse GPs.
Speaking on Sky News the Health Secretary said that GPs had done “phenomenal work” during the COVID-19 pandemic and added:
“We want to support them to do what they do best, which is to see patients and to see more patients properly and in a way that the patient chooses.”
The health secretary said the measures will “help GPs to see more people face-to-face and more promptly”.
However 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.
“While in-person consultations are a key feature of general practice and absolutely necessary for some patients and certain conditions, the pandemic has proven that in many other cases, phone or video appointments are entirely appropriate and appreciated by patients, and a crude focus on percentages or targets is completely unhelpful.
“Throughout our discussions with ministers and NHS England in recent weeks, the BMA has been clear that without a concerted effort to reduce bureaucracy, admin and red tape in practices, patient access and care was at risk.
“Unfortunately, today’s offer merely tinkers around the edges, and will not reduce the unnecessary burden practices carry and therefore free up any more time for doctors to see more patients. We need an end to target-driven, payment-by-results, care and allow practices to look after patients in a way that is flexible and right for the person in front of them and the Government have missed an opportunity to tackle this.
“Reducing the administrative burden on GPs by reforming who can provide medical evidence and certificates such as Fit notes and DVLA checks, won’t happen for some time and is a mere drop in the ocean as what is needed is urgent action now to free up sufficient time for more appointments.
“While the additional £250m is welcome, it must be easy for practices to access rapidly and they must not be forced to have to produce reams of plans or try to meet unattainable targets to get it – which has often happened in the past.