GPs to bid for share of £100m ‘access’ fund

GPs can now bid for a share of £100m in the second wave of The Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund, improving access to GP services for patients.

From today, practices are eligible to bid against the fund by working with peers to develop proposals for improving and extending patient access to services.

Priority will be given to places where practices are opening for longer such as 8-8 weekdays and at weekends.

GP practices can submit their application forms from today for NHS England’s area teams to consider before a national assessment panel makes the final decision. Bids will need to serve a minimum population of 30,000.

The deadline for applications is 5pm Friday 16 January 2015.

Dr Mike Bewick, NHS England’s Deputy Medical Director, said: “Even more patients across the country will now be able to see their family doctor in the most convenient way for them and at a more convenient time. People who struggle to find a GP appointment to fit in with family and work life can now make the most of new technologies.

The current 20 pilots have had a positive impact in providing patients with better, wide-ranging access to their GP as well as more choice about when and how they see them.

“Our vision for primary care is to see GPs and primary care colleagues play an even stronger role in the heart of local communities, offering more joined up, high quality services and keeping people out of hospital.”

The 20 successful wave one pilots were launched in April, as part of a £50m fund announced by the Prime Minister, and began to mobilise with early preparatory work including the development of back office functions.

They were awarded sums ranging from £400k to £5m. A wide variety of ideas are now being trialed including 8am-8pm working, better use of telecare and health apps, access to appointments through e-mail and Skype, and greater flexibility with face-to-face access.

By the end of October more than 4m patients will be benefitting and by Christmas this will have reached more than 5m.

Dr Chris Jones, a GP at Church Street Surgery in Ossett, West Yorkshire, led the bid for West Wakefield Health and Wellbeing in wave one on behalf of six practices.

He said: “Patients at our surgeries are really benefiting from our extended hours service with urgent problems receiving a much faster response from a local GP with full access to their records in our modern local Hub premises.

“They will soon be able to choose to have a video appointment, have a consultation by email or access routine appointments after 6.30pm and at the weekend if they have difficulty attending during normal hours. We have really enjoyed being involved in this project because it has allowed us to test a number of ideas which will make life easier for our patients.

“I’d encourage any GP to get involved in a bid for the fund as it can provide many opportunities and patients are extremely pleased with the outcome in West Wakefield.”

Dr Nav Chana, Co-Chair of the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC), said: “We welcome opportunities for further funding of innovative approaches to accessing primary care services. There is a real need to test and evaluate how different models of care delivery can improve the health of our communities through working in collaborative networks, using technology better and developing a different skill mix within and across primary care teams. This funding gives an opportunity to evaluate at a much larger scale approaches that can enhance care to patients and our wider public.”

NHS England is overseeing the pilots that, as with wave one, will be part of a 12-month national development and evaluation programme.

Alongside the wave one pilots, NHS England has established an “associate network” to the Challenge Fund to link around 24 of the other innovative bids within their region and nationally to share learning.