Seven million patients to benefit from Challenge Fund

More than seven million patients across the country will benefit from innovative pilot schemes trialing improvements to GP access, funded by the £50m Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund.

Twenty GP collaborations were successful in their bids to the fund and have been awarded investment to run pilots for a year.

The Challenge Fund has created great interest amongst practices in adopting new ways of working, attracting more than 250 expressions of interest.

The successful schemes were awarded sums from £400k to £5m including three pilots across London which cover half of London’s population.

A wide variety of ideas are to be trialed including 8am-8pm working, better use of telecare and health apps, access to appointments through e-mail and video consultations and greater flexibility with face-to-face access.

Mike Bewick, NHS England’s Deputy Medical Director, said:

“We were very pleased so many practices came together to look at delivering innovative services at scale and we will await the outcomes of the pilot schemes eagerly.

“This fund is about helping those people who struggle to find a GP appointment to fit in with family and work life and making the most of new technologies. We need to create an environment that enables GPs to play a much stronger role, as part of a more integrated system of out-of-hospital care.”

In October 2013, the Prime Minister announced the Challenge Fund to improve access to general practice and NHS England was asked to lead on the selection and management of the pilot schemes.

GP practices were invited to submit their ‘expressions of interest’ (EOIs) in December and NHS England’s area teams considered them before a national assessment panel made the final decision.

The panel had representatives from NHS England, the Department of Health and patient groups. Charles Alessi, Chairman National Association of Primary Care, said:

“The National Association of Primary Care commends those practices that bid for the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund, and I am not surprised by the overwhelming response.

“The GP Challenge Fund will give colleagues the time and ability to work innovatively to ensure better patient outcomes in an out-of-hospital environment”

NHS England will now oversee the pilots that will be part of a 12-month national development and evaluation programme.

NHS England wishes to build on the momentum created by the bid process, and alongside the pilots, is looking to establish a number of “associate networks” to the Challenge Fund to link a number of the other innovative bids within their region and nationally to share learning.

Today it is also announced by the Department of Health that NHS primary care will wrap care around the individual needs of the 800,000 people with the most complex needs under “Transforming Primary Care: proactive, personalised, joined-up care for those who need it most.”  Around 841,000 people will benefit from the project.

Mostly elderly patients will be offered an enhanced service including: proactive, personalised care plans regularly-reviewed by GPs, nurses, carers and other health professionals; a named GP responsible for their care around-the-clock; and same-day access to a medical professional.

Read about the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund and the different pilot schemes.

Background information

The pilots were selected using the following criteria:

  • Public and patient engagement – reflecting the local communities’ priorities on accessing primary care.
  • Sustainability – This includes ideas for how to make the scheme continue beyond the pilot phase. We need to learn from these ensuring activity continues beyond the pilot phase.
  • Scale and ambition – likely to cover populations of at least 40,000 people.
  • Leadership and commitment – clear engagement from all the practices involved.
  • Link to local strategy – putting general practice at the heart of integrated out-of-hospital care, addressing health inequalities.
  • Capacity for rapid implementation – delivering tangible patient benefits during 2014/15 and beyond.
  • Plans for monitoring and evaluation – mapped against clear success criteria.

The Fund clearly demonstrates the potential of practices to deliver services differently, at scale, providing better and more convenient services for patients

NHS England’s ‘Improving General Practice – A Call to Action’ outlined the need for GP practices to operate differently to benefit patient outcomes and experience, and ensure services are sustainable. The pilots will help inform how we might do this.

The 20 successful pilot schemes:


  • Better Access, Better Care, Better Standards (North, Central and East London) – £5,608,550
  • Transforming Access to General Practice (North West London) – £5,000,000
  • Extending Access to Primary Care  (Southwark) – £975,278


  • Moving Primary Care to a Population Wellbeing Approach (West Wakefield) – £1,436,663
  • Opening Doors (Morecambe)- £1,137,132
  • Easy GP Project (Bury) – £2,779,000
  • Together as One Community (Hambleton, Richmondshire, Whitby) – £2,481,000
  • Primary Care Home (Warrington)’ – £3,291,157
  • Better Together (Workington) – £511,292
  • Caring for Darlington Beyond Tomorrow – £448,400


  • Extended Primary Integrated Care (Brighton and Hove) – £1,871,149
  • Integrated South Kent Coast (Folkestone and Dover) – £1,894,267
  • One Care Consortium (Bristol) – £2,900,000
  • Steps to the Future (Slough) – £2,950,000
  • Shaping Services to Meet Community Needs (Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly) – £3,575,000

Midlands and East

  • Improving Access, Supporting Primary Care Integration and Whole System Change (Herefordshire) – £2,663,206
  • Transforming General Practice (Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire) – £5,252,463
  • Transformational Innovations for Primary Care  (Watford ) – £794,620
  • Health United (Birmingham) – £997,216


  • Transforming the Access Experience At Scale Across England (Care UK) – £960,000


  1. Dr R S Sumra says:

    We wish to submit our bid as we missed out the date previously, our project will create new opportunity in the deprived area and improve health standards and save funds for the NHS

  2. Nigel Gough says:

    I agree with Nick Brown’s comment.
    Some of these large bids look to be duplicating the present OOH service – presumably moving back towards the old GP co-operatives that preceeded it.

  3. Nick Brown says:

    The application process for this initiative was to encourage consortia bids for population of approx 40, 000 to develop innovative andd sustainable ways of increasing access to primary care. It is remarkable that only 2 of the the successful bids have population sizes anywhere near that size. Some of the bids seem hardly innovative and the careuk bid appears to be setting up a duplication of the 111 service. This ia all very dissappointing for those of us who spent hours putting together innovative bids which fitted the criteria. It is disappointing that our area Bath, Glos, swindon and Wilts did not have a successful bid despite having one of the most hard pressed a and e departments in the country. It is important that future development funding opportunities takes greater account of local development priorities rather than an opportunity to make political headlines and that application criteria are precise, transparent and consistent, which has not been the case in this particular process, which appears to have degenerated into a frantic free for all scrabble for additional funding.

    • G Standen says:

      I totally agree with Nick Brown although I was not involved in the process, however dissapointed that once again our area missed out. We desperatly need more gp opening hours to reduce the pressures off our hospitals.