GPs helped to receive more calls at peak times as part of appointment campaign

GP surgeries are being helped to increase their capacity to take calls at peak times as part of an appointment drive.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said practices were being supported to “make better use of digital phone systems” so they can “increase the ability to receive calls from patients, particularly at times of greatest activity.

The confirmation comes before the UK government’s primary care recovery plan is published.

The plan, according to The Times, will tell GPs that it will no longer be acceptable to ask patients to call back later in search of an appointment.

One of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s five promises ahead of the upcoming general election is to reduce NHS waiting times, and speeding up the availability of GP appointments is said to be seen as key to delivering on the promise.

As then-Health Secretary Therese Coffey previously announced during Liz Truss’s short-lived tenure, ministers are eager to end the so-called “8am scramble” to schedule a doctor’s appointment.

In September, Ms Coffey, in addition to unveiling proposals to upgrade practices’ phone systems to help provide appointments, announced plans to ban waiting longer than two weeks to see a GP for a problem that is not urgent.

She said that patients with urgent needs should be seen the same day.

Ms Truss’s close ally also wanted new data tables published so patients could compare the performance of her GP practice with other local surgeries.

According to The Times, Ms Coffey’s successor, Steve Barclay, will follow through on some of those plans, including improving phone systems and making it easier for patients to perform benchmarks.

cabinet meeting
Health Secretary Steve Barclay is expected to announce the primary care (PA) plan soon

The newspaper said the plan will “strengthen” the push for patients to be seen within a fortnight.

Practices will be directed to find a way to screen a caller for problems or direct the caller to another service that can perform an analysis, including pharmacies.

It comes after a coroner ruled in January that 26-year-old law student and musician David Nash likely would have lived had he seen a doctor face-to-face rather than four remote consultations with his GP.

A DHSC spokesperson said: “We are making progress in getting patients to see their GP more quickly.

“In January 2023 there were almost 120,000 more appointments available in general practice each business day than there were in January 2022, almost four million more in total.

“We are also supporting practices to make better use of digital phone systems to help increase the capacity to receive calls from patients, particularly at busy times.

“There are hundreds more physicians in general practice than last year, record numbers in training, and we are close to reaching our goal of providing an additional 26,000 primary care staff, including pharmacists, physical therapists and paramedics, providing direct patient care or support doctors. and nurses to do it.”

A DHSC official said the primary care plan will be released “soon.”

It is expected to build on labor measures announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in the Budget, including the decision to remove the tax-free cap on lifetime pensions.

The Treasury has said that tax policy could help prevent top doctors from retiring early or reducing their hours in an attempt to avoid a pension charge at retirement.


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