Extended GP Services – What Does It Mean for Primary Care?
The NHS has recently brought forward its extended GP services plans by six months to ensure that patients are able to access primary healthcare at extended hours – for example, at evenings and on weekends. The plans, which were due to be implemented by March 2019, are now expected to come into effect by October of this year. The changes include patients having access to more daytime appointments, as well as the possibility of booking same day and/or evening appointments with a GP, and appointments on weekends in their local area. Just over 50% of the population already has access to this extended hours care.
Part of the plan also includes the expectation that practices will be part of a primary care network, with incentives expected to be offered for practices who join a network.
Implications of the extended GP services on primary care providers
Practices will need to be able to resource the new extended hours of primary care that are coming into effect. Additionally, surgeries will need to ensure they are able to cope with the increase in patient bookings. This could involve telephone management and being able to offer service to people whose first language might not be English, or patients who are hearing impaired. The GP Forward View aims to assist healthcare providers in the extended GP services plan and has pledged an extra £2.4 billion a year for the industry by 2020/21.
The General Practice Forward View also promises to help practices manage demand by providing recruitment incentives with the aim of deepening the workforce by adding 5000 extra doctors to general practice, as well as 5000 other staff in the form of pharmacists and therapists. The NHS has reported that GPs and pharmacists have already been recruited as part of the plans. The intended outcome of the recruitment drive is obviously to ease the workload on practices; improve the quality of the working environment for GPs and their teams, and give patients better and more consistent service.
It will be essential that patients know what avenues they need to use to seek the right information regarding extended hours bookings. Patients will also need to be aware of exactly how to book appointments with a practitioner.
Requirements of the extended GP services
For healthcare providers to be able to access some of the funding assistance that will be available to help with the extended hours services, they will need to meet certain requirements relating to patient communications. These include how the practice will convey to patients exactly how to book the new extended hours appointments; and equally as important, what services will be available at the practice. The improving access to general practice website gives more detail on these issues.
Conveying the extended hours information to patients needs to be properly thought out – what channels are your audience on? Not all patients will be regularly accessing the internet or other digital methods (such as social media), and in cases like these, practices will need to think about providing and distributing printed materials such as flyers or postcards. A recorded phone message at the practice will also be a good idea.
For those who live in East Berkshire – specifically, Ascot, Windsor, Maidenhead, Slough and Bracknell – we are your designated extended GP services provider. If you would like to know more about the out of hours services we provide, please visit our website. Our blog is also full of helpful information about what to do and where to go in the event of a number of specific minor injuries and illnesses. Often, there are alternative health services available and knowing which one is suitable for your needs could save you a trip to A&E.