14 Apr 2014

Cameron confirms extended GP hours for NHS

Millions of patients are going to be able to see their family doctors outside of work hours thanks to a new fund to extend GP opening times, the prime minister announces.

David Cameron said that more than 7.5 million people will be offered increased access to their GP services through extended opening times and new consultation methods using video-phone services, email and phone.

The £50m GP Access Fund will mean that patients at 1,147 GP practices across England will be able to see their family doctor outside of working hours, including late night and weekend appointments or use one of the modern consultation tools for convenience.

It was originally thought that around half a million people would benefit from the cash pot but due to high levels of interest it has been rolled out to cover more GP services, a Department of Health spokesman said.

The prime minister also announced plans to enhance care services for the elderly.

Around 800,000 people over the age of 75 and those with more serious health complaints will get tailored care, coordinated by just one local GP, he 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,” said Mr Cameron.

‘Lots of innovative ideas’

“There has been a great response from doctors, with lots of innovative ideas, and we will now see over seven million patients given weekend and evening opening hours, alongside more access to their family doctor on the phone, via email or even Skype.

This is an important step and good news for patients.

“Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens have set out the proposals for the new cash pot and the Transforming Primary Care programme to help “proactive, personalised care in the community”, which will mostly benefit the elderly.

Mr Hunt said: “Moving nearly a million people onto proactive care plans is one of the biggest changes that we need to make in our NHS.

“People want to know that their parents and relatives will get constant care if they have a long-term condition.

Many doctors already give great care but I want to make sure this is completely coordinated to head off problems and keep people from going to hospital unnecessarily.

“Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, added: “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.”

Need for proper support

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association’s general practice committee, said: “These changes will need to be properly supported.

“The government must take further action so that community, social and urgent care work in tandem to deliver truly holistic care to patients.

“Ministers must also deliver on their commitment to increase resources in the community so that there are more GPs, nurses and other health and social care services to provide coordinated care to the escalating number of patients who need care closer to home.

“This will enable GPs to be properly supported and have the time and ability to deliver the personalised care that patients deserve.”