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More access for black and minority patients

The Health Secretary Alan Johnson has committed to creating more responsive and accessible primary care for black and minority ethnic groups (BME) groups, following the recommendations of two reports published today that identify ways of improving access and responsiveness of GP services.

The findings are published in response to issues raised in the largest GP patient survey, which was conducted last year.

The Department of Health has announced the creation of a national support programme, led by Dr Michael Warburton, to work with the NHS and with GP practices to drive forward improvements in GP services.

The programme brings together existing work to extend GP opening hours and to invest £250m in establishing additional primary care services that increase access and patient choice, together with fresh action to ensure that these additional services create more responsive and accessible primary care for BME groups.

Alan Johnson commented: "We recognise that while the overwhelming majority of patients are happy with their experience of GP services there are pockets of dissatisfaction where improvements can be achieved - particularly in some BME groups.

"We welcome the findings of these two reports and are committed to implementing their recommendations. They will build on improvements underway in access and choice, where we are investing an additional £250m to establish over 150 new GP-led health centres in addition to existing services and over 100 new GP practices in underserved areas.

"These new services will not replace existing family doctors, but will give the public, and many hard-to-reach groups, extra access to primary care and a wider range of community health services that better meet their needs."

In July 2007, the Health Secretary asked for issues highlighted by the 2007 GP patient survey to be examined in more detail. Ten areas of best practice were identified, such as:

  • Improving communication between GP practices and people from BME groups.
  • Giving the public more information about the range and quality of local services to improve patient choice and providing greater opportunities for local communities to influence how GP services are provided.
  • Introducing more flexible systems for booking GP appointments, greater flexibility over appointment lengths.
  • Training for GP receptionists to help them take on a wider role in acting as patient navigators.
  • More systematic action to listen to and act on patient views.
  • Opening practices at the right times, both during the day and during evenings and weekends.
  • Developing talent and innovation in general practice.

Department of Health

The two reports published today are: No Patient Left Behind: How can we ensure world class primary care for Black & Minority Ethnic people? and Report of the National Improvement Team for Primary Care Access and Responsiveness. For more information on the two reports click here