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Increased access to primary care through £50m pilot

Over 7.5 million people will now have increased access to general practice through seven-day opening and 8am-8pm appointments, the government has revealed. 

Close to 1,150 practices in England will benefit from the Prime Minister's £50 million GP access fund pilot scheme. 

The fund was initially expected to help 500,000 people across England, but has been expanded because of high levels of interest from practices. 

Around 800,000 people with complex needs will also be given a named clinician to provide individual care plans and same-day GP access when needed. 

The fund will be used for increasing use of Skype, email and phone consultations, as well as extra services. 

The Prime Minister, David Cameron (pictured), 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."

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England said: “By freeing up hard working family doctors to spend more time with their sickest patients, and by making it easier for other patients to get through to their GP surgery for help and advice at evenings and weekends, these initiatives have the potential to be a win-win-win for patients, their doctors and the NHS.”

Other services that will be rolled out from May into next year include:

 - Electronic prescriptions and online booking of appointments.

 - Easier, on-line registration and choice of practice.

 - Joining-up of urgent care and out-of-hours care to ensure rapid walk-in access to care.

 - Greater flexibility about how people access general practice, for instance with the option to visit a number of GP surgery sites in their area.

 - Better access to 'telecare' to help sick people stay comfortable at home, as well as to healthy living apps.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said: “The health service needs to improve the way in which it cares for frail older people so 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. Without urgent investment in the nursing workforce in primary and community settings, the public are being short changed.

“Community nursing teams are already working under a great deal of pressure with too few resources and too few staff. 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.

“If we ignore the changing demands facing the health service it simply will not cope and it will be patients who suffer. This will require investment in community services, putting frontline staff where they can best care for patients, and letting nursing staff co-ordinate services.”