GP access a top priority for NHS

GP access will be a touchstone for demonstrating how the NHS is doing in the future. That’s the view of Ros Roughton, Director of NHS Commissioning, who today outlined the future for seven day services and primary care.

Speaking at the Health and Care Innovation Expo 2015 in Manchester, Ros explored the challenges facing GPs in delivering the services they want to provide, what is being done nationally to support them and how we will access GPs services in the future.

“We know GPs are under immense pressure.  The level of investment in the NHS has not been matched in terms of investment in primary care. There is variation in quality of care, and despite high levels of satisfaction, we have seen a drop in access.

“But work is underway to respond to these challenges.  We’ve increased funding allocations for primary care, we have workforce initiatives underway, there is £200 million worth of Prime Minister’s Challenge schemes in train and we have just announced a new occupational health service to support GPs.

“Currently GPs are doing things that other professionals can be doing.  It’s about using nurses, pharmacists and other professionals to take the pressure off GPs.

“It’s also about large scale collaboration, but in a way that makes sense to the local population and staff. It’s about extending hours, but while also taking into consideration local demand, which may differ according to demographic or rurality.”

The audience heard from Chris Jones, Clinical Lead, West Wakefield Health and Wellbeing and Jim O’Donnell, Chair, Slough CCG, who gave examples of innovative approaches have been applied in their local areas and how they are working in practice.

Dr Chaand Nagpal of the BMA emphasised the need to change the way we define access to understand that it is about providing the right care at the right time for patients in a range of ways.

Ros Roughton said, “To continue this work there are three key enablers which are essential. Technology is the first, and that means not only making the most of technology, but also using it to ensure we handle data efficiently and safely.

“Workforce is the second, so that we can increase our capacity as well as develop new skill mix models.

“Finally we need proper development support. In the same way that resources have been provided to support hospitals in tackling waiting times, we need to consider the support needed to transform GP access for the future.”