GPs must see patients who ‘need’ an appointment within two weeks, it is expected that health secretary and deputy Prime Minister Thérèse Coffey will announce today.
Improving access to general practice will be the ‘centrepiece’ of Dr Coffey’s new Our Plan for Patients, due to be published later today
It will include her expectation that everyone who needs an appointment should get one within two weeks, while the most urgent patients must be seen on the day.
It is currently unclear how this will be policed, and whether the ‘need’ will be defined by GPs or patients.
The health secretary is also expected to announce that the Government will also include ‘changing funding rules to recruit extra support staff so hardworking GPs can focus on treating patients’.
This is expected to ‘free up funding’ for GP’s to hire more advanced nurse practitioners, and GP assistants. As of yet the Government has not provided clarification on what a ‘GP assistant’ is.
The plan is also set to promise more information available for patients, with ‘appointments data published at a practice level for the first time ever’.
Pharmacists will also be able to prescribe and manage more medicines, including contraception, which the Government says will free up to two million GP appointments a year.
Pharmacies will also take referrals from emergency care for minor illnesses including coughs, sore throats and headaches.
The one million volunteers who helped out in the pandemic will be asked to come forward again in a ‘national endeavour’ to help the NHS.
Dr Coffey is expected to say: ‘Our Plan for Patients will make it easier to get a general practice appointment and we will work tirelessly to deliver that, alongside supporting our hardworking GP teams.’
RCN chief executive, Pat Cullen said: ‘Nursing staff provide the majority of patient care and we’re concerned that, when it comes to making care safer, this announcement appears to be lacking.
‘There is a staffing crisis in an overloaded system and it is putting patients at risk. Another callout for volunteers will look panicked and ill-considered.’
In response to the Government’s suggestion of more funding for hiring advanced nurse practitioner Mrs Cullen added that ‘the basic issue, which these plans do not address, is that we don’t have enough nursing staff.’
The 2021 winter access plan had previously seen health secretary Sajid Javid confirming the Government’s intention to publish practice-level data, including the proportion of face-to-face appointments.
It was also revealed by Nursing in Practice’s sister paper, Pulse, in July that up to 40% of funding available for hiring additional roles staff was unspent in each of the first two years of the scheme.