Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has promised GPs a new deal to alleviate pressure on over-stretched services, through increased investment, reduction in bureaucracy, and the drafting in of more healthcare professionals to areas in most need.
As previously announced, around 10,000 extra healthcare workers, including 5,000 more GPs, have been promised for primary and community care, but recruitment will be focused the most under-doctored areas where the problems are most acute, Hunt said.
Elsewhere, think-tank the Health Foundation is to assess and update the indicators currently used to measure GP performance, while NHS England/NHS Clinical Commissioners have been tasked with developing a £10 million programme of support for struggling practices, to address problems quicker.
NHS England will also look at how bureaucratic burdens on general practice can be reduced to release more clinical time for patients.
“I am prepared to commit money to this plan – more GPs, more community nurses, more money for infrastructure, help to reduce burnout,” Hunt said, but also called on GPs to fulfil their side of the bargain.
This includes the break-down of barriers to social care, “so that social prescribing becomes as normal a part of your job as medical prescribing is today,” and getting on board of seven-day services.
Improving access to primary care should ensure “precious hospital capacity is kept clear for those who really need it”, but “this is about a flexible and balanced approach - not that every single surgery will be open in the evenings or at weekends,” Hunt stressed.
The health secretary also promised £7.5 million this year to support community pharmacists with training and appropriate tools so that they can plan a key role in the provision of seven-day services.
Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, has welcomed the plans which, “if they come to fruition, will put general practice on a more stable and secure footing for the future and ensure that family doctors can keep pace with rocketing patient demand and increasingly complex caseloads”.
But “what we need now is a clear and costed plan for turning this into a reality – and a timescale for how quickly this can be delivered,” she added.