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General Practitioners

Question for Department of Health

UIN 51068, tabled on 31 October 2016

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what steps his Department is taking to improve GP appointment waiting times.

Answered on

3 November 2016

According to the latest GP Patient Survey (published in July 2016), 84.7% of respondents indicated that they were able to get an appointment the last time they tried. Of those who were able to get an appointment, 92.1% say their appointment was convenient and 81.9% of patients who wanted to see a doctor or nurse on the same day were able to do so.

The Government is committed to improving access to general practitioner (GP) services as part of our plan for a seven day National Health Service. To implement this, £175 million has been invested in the GP Access Fund to test improved and innovative access to GP services. Across the two waves of the Access Fund, there are 57 schemes covering over 2,500 practices and 18 million patients – a third of the population – that have benefited from improved access and transformational change at local level.

This includes more appointments being made available, especially at times more convenient for patients, such as weekday evenings and weekends. It also includes different approaches like telephone consultations and better use of the wider primary care workforce (such as Advanced Nurse Practitioners, pharmacists, the voluntary sector, physiotherapists and paramedics) to deliver improved access to patients.

These approaches have helped release local GP capacity, improve patient choice, and more appropriately matched the needs of patients with the most appropriate professional to care for them. In addition to Access Fund sites, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) may offer local initiatives for improving access to GPs.

Practices in the GP Access Fund are testing an automated appointment measuring interface (the GP Appointment Tool) to give them detailed information about their activity and how it varies over time. This will help practices match their supply of appointments more closely to demand. It will be available for every practice from 2017-18.

The General Practice Forward View, published in April 2016, announced that an extra £2.4 billion a year will be invested in GP services by 2020-21. As part of overall investment in general practice, NHS England will provide over £500 million of recurrent funding by 2020-21, on top of current primary medical care allocations, to enable CCGs to commission and fund extra capacity across England. This is to ensure that by 2020, everyone has access to GP services, including sufficient routine appointments at evenings and weekends to meet locally determined demand, alongside effective access to out-of-hours and urgent care services.

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