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How we're making it easier to get an NHS GP appointment

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The Health and Social Care Secretary is committed to making it easier to get a GP appointment and he has today set out how we will improve access to this vital front door to the NHS under a new plan.

The Delivery Plan for Recovering Access to Primary Care published today will ensure millions of people benefit from quicker care for their health needs from their local pharmacy.

It details how:

  • pharmacists will for the first time be able to supply prescription only medicines for seven common health conditions such as earaches or sore throats, subject to a consultation with the sector
  • patients will be able to contact their general practice more quickly and easily – ending the 8am ‘rush’ for appointments – thanks to new digital tools we’re giving GPs, including better digital phone technology and extended use of the NHS app
  • one in four women will be able to access their contraception at high street pharmacies, meaning almost half a million women no longer needing to speak to a practice nurse or GP
  • we will expand blood pressure checks to give people earlier access to the help they need sooner
  • patients will have more control over their own health as millions more are able to access their GP records on their phone.

You can read the plan in full here.

Below we answer some of the questions you might have about the proposals.

What’s new in the plan?

  • The plan builds on innovative work already under way to relieve pressure on GP practices and improve patient experiences.
  • It signals a shift from the traditional mode of general practice to a more dynamic one that uses digital channels and multi-speciality teams to resolve patients' issues faster and direct them toward the right services.
  • Patients will no longer have to call back another day to book an appointment and will be informed of the procedure for handling their request the moment they contact their practice.
  • The role of community pharmacies will be expanded, boosting their role in primary care delivery.

Is this backed by new money?

  • We are retargeting £240 million to support general practice with measures including the shift from analogue to digital telephone services and training to make sure staff can direct patients to right person or service provide care navigation training, and the launch of a public communication campaign.
  • A new £246 million payment has been made available in the 2023/24 GP contract, with 70% of the funds going to primary care networks to improve access.
  • The plan also makes use of existing investments in, the NHS App, and other IT development work.
  • Our proposed expanded community pharmacy services will be supported with new funding of £645 million over this year and next, helping to take the pressure off GPs and providing patients with more options for care.
  • In 2023/24 core funding for general practices and Primary Care Networks was a record £11.5 billion, which is 38% higher than in 2018/19, with around £3 billion of extra investment annually into general practice.

You’ve set out how you are increasing access to services. What are you doing to increase the GP and pharmacy workforce?

  • We will set out our plans to grow and support the NHS workforce, including GPs, pharmacists and other primary care staff, in our Long Term Workforce Plan, which will be published shortly.
  • New measures will be introduced to support international medical graduates, who make up over half of all doctors in GP training, with their visas.

Dentists are a key part of primary care – what are you doing to help people get an appointment?

  • We’re investing more than £3 billion a year to deliver NHS dentistry.
  • Last year we made the most significant changes to the dentistry contract since 2006, by introducing a range of reforms to encourage more dentists to offer NHS work – increasing the number of appointments available and making it easier for patients to get the NHS dental treatment they need.
  • The reforms included:
    • The publication of skill mix guidance to clarify how dental practices can utilise dental therapists and dental hygienists, including that they can open and close a course of treatment, so that practices are best utilising their entire workforce.
    • Increasing the amount of money practices receive from the NHS for high-need patients by increasing the payments for more complex or high-volume treatments within band two.
    • A new requirement for dental practices to update the NHS website at least every 90 days, so patients are able to see which practices are accepting new patients.
  • The reforms have been received well so far, but we know there is more to do and we will be publishing a plan with further reforms shortly.
  • The number of dental treatments between April 2021 and March 2022 has almost doubled. Around 26.4 million courses of treatment were delivered by NHS dentists – compared to 12 million courses of treatment in the previous 12 months.
  • You can read more about how we’re improving access to dentistry here:

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