GPs Asked to Cover More Winter Appointments to Avert Crisis

GPs are being asked to offer more evening appointments in an attempt to prevent what is becoming a massive winter crisis.

Money set aside to support seven-day access will be utilised in order to fund this initiative.

NHS England has allocated money left over from its £150 million GP Access Fund to CCGs and regional area teams.

While the full details on allocations have yet to be released, the Midlands and East NHS region has confirmed that it has been earmarked £7.5 million by national leaders.

Simon Evans, locality director for NHS England Midlands and East, outlined this funding.

“NHS England provided money across England, weighted by population, for extending access to primary care. CCGs were informed that the money was to be used to increase appointments above the current level of provision for the winter months. Across Midlands and East, £7,441,184 was allocated, equating to 42p per estimated registered population.”

GP leaders have broadly welcomed that the measures, but also pointed out that this effectively represents rebadged funding that was already intended for general practice anyway.

With general crisis facing massive difficulties, several clinical commissioning groups have introduced schemes in order to incentivise surgeries to provide more evening appointments.

NHS Basildon and Brentwood CCG are among the clinical commissioning groups working on this arrangement, and released a statement on the matter.

“We are currently working with member GP practices to arrange for extra evening GP appointments, having been allocated some additional funding by NHS England”.

During the current financial year, only £6 per patient has been set aside by CCGs for the commissioning of schemes to provide extended GP access.

Commenting on the issue, a spokesperson from NHS England outlined the plans to address the current crisis in general practice.

“Any residual funding which has not been required by schemes, has been provided to support improving access for patients and strengthening general practice overall resilience in the system. NHS England Regions are responsible for deploying this fund in the most effective way; in particular, the first call should be to improve access to general practice in winter.”

The spokesperson also indicated that over £130 million had been distributed by NHS England with the intention of improving general practice during the current financial year.

“This includes funding for existing GPAF schemes, a number of areas that have been identified across the country to speed up access and for providing additional GP capacity over the winter period,” the spokesperson explained.

Many healthcare professionals favour moving money from the Treasury to general practice, in order to ease what is widely acknowledged to be a system under serious logistical and financial pressure.

 

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