The Prime Minister, David Cameron has announced today, 14th April that extended opening hours and enhanced local care for the elderly will soon be available at doctors’ surgeries across many parts of the country.
Millions of people will now be able to see their family doctor outside of working hours, including late night and weekend appointments, while the elderly and those with more serious health complaints will get tailored care, coordinated by just one local GP.
This follows recent criticism by the Royal College of General Practitioners that a shortage of doctors in General Practice will mean that approximately 27 million patients in England will have to wait at least a week for an appointment.
Health leaders have also warned that traditional general practice will disappear as patients in some areas are unable to access a doctor and 75 practices have more than 5,000 patients per permanent GP.
Research also shows that rising numbers of family doctors are leaving the profession due to high workloads and lack of support.
The Department of Health is proposing more GP access including 7 day opening and 8am to 8pm appointments.
A £50 million GP access fund will support 1,147 practices and also offer personalised care for 80,000 people mostly aged 75 and over will be enrolled in a proactive enhanced service.
David Cameron stated: “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.
“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.”
These plans represent the start of a fundamental shift in care from hospital to home, in which people will be given more on-going support to better manage conditions in the community rather than being admitted to hospital.
Other GP services that will be rolled out from May into next year include:
- Electronic prescriptions and online booking of appointments;
- Easier, on-line registration and choice of practice;
- Joining-up of urgent care and out-of-hours care to ensure rapid walk-in access to care;
- Greater flexibility about how people access general practice, for instance with the option to visit a number of GP surgery sites in their area; and
- Better access to ‘telecare’ to help sick people stay comfortable at home, as well as to healthy living apps.
But it remains to be seen if there are enough GPs to carry out the promised improvements and if the funding is sufficient for them.
by Tina Foster