Health Secretary Alan Johnson yesterday underlined the government's commitment to improving family doctor services alongside further plans to tackle long-standing inequalities in GP provision.
Twelve new GP practices will be set up in some of the more poorly served areas in England. A consultation will also shortly be launched with the BMA on a proposed £105m investment in existing GP practices to further expand clinical services and to improve access for patients, as well as the implementation of the Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body annual recommendations for GP pay.
The 12 primary care trusts benefitting from a new GP practice will each receive over £1.1m by 2010/11 as their share of the £250m access fund announced last autumn, to fund at least 100 new GP practices in the most deprived areas and 152 GP-led health centres.
Areas with the fewest GPs have poorer general health and greater deprivation. Some areas only have 43 GPs per 100,000 people compared to 88 GPs per 100,000 people in areas with the best coverage.
The new practices will increase family doctor capacity in places that need it most and offer a range of innovative services such as extended opening hours and extended practice catchment areas as well as increased choice of GP practices for patients and reduced pressure on existing GP practices.
The first practices are expected to be open to patients in less than a year's time. Primary care trusts will work with clinicians and the public to develop patient services that reflect local needs and then look to potential providers to come forward with innovative proposals for the new practices.
The proposals involve investment in a range of enhanced patient services:
New measures to tackle heart failure.
Spreading best practice on osteoporosis treatment.
Annual health checks for people with severe learning disabilities.
Better data recording to help improve patient care for people from black and minority ethnic groups.