Your evidence to Healthwatch helps inform government action on GP appointments

More funding and action is being promised to increase the number of people who can visit their GP in person.
Photo (pre-Covid) of woman at GP surgery reception

Thanks to the stories the general public has shared with us and other local Healthwatch around England, the government is taking action to improve people’s access to GPs.

Announcing a new plan and £250m of extra funding, Health secretary Sajid Javid said: “I am determined to ensure patients can see their GP in the way they want, no matter where they live.”

However, he added that abuse by patients of doctors and surgery staff would not be tolerated.

In the new plan published 14 October 2021, NHS England (NHSE) acknowledges that Healthwatch and the Care Quality Commission had recorded ‘rising number of concerns and complaints, typically about appointment availability, waiting times, and in particular, the ability to see a GP, and specifically face-to-face’.

What the government says you can expect:

  • More appointments should be available at surgeries that win money from a new £250m funding pot to hire locums and other health professionals to assist GPs
  • Shorter phone queues at surgeries that get NHS support to upgrade phone systems 
  • More patients may be able to visit surgeries at the same time depending on the outcome of a review of Covid infection control rules
  • You'll be able to check how your own GP surgery is doing when data is published for every practice by Spring 2022 on the number and type of appointments
  • You'll get the opportunity to rate your experience of accessing support at your GP surgery via a new instant text message survey due to be launched next year
  • Zero tolerance from the NHS for patients who abuse health and admin staff
  • More information about different ways to get support - whether from surgeries, health profesisonals other than GPs, pharmacies or 111

Targeted intervention will be aimed at a minority of practices who ‘are now offering wholly inappropriate access, with very low levels of face-to-face care,’ the plan says. ‘In August 2021 over 15% of practices recorded less than 20% of their GP appointments being held face to face. That is likely to be contrary to good clinical practice, even if it were to reflect the preferences of their patients.’

Patients’ input into this choice [of appointment type] should be sought and practices should respect preferences for face-to- face care unless there are good clinical reasons to the contrary.'
— NHS England, 14 October 2021

Healthwatch Reading will update local people about improvement plans for our area once they have been agreed by local NHS decision-makers.

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