GP practices in Gloucestershire are working together to provide 100,000 more appointments for patients.
The extra appointments, across the county’s 75 practices, will be mainly provided by GPs and nurses over the next year; and clinical pharmacists, paramedics, mental health workers and physiotherapists are also now working in local surgeries, offering a greater range of skills and services and freeing up GP time.
It has been made possible through 16 Primary Care Networks, one of the new national approaches unveiled in the NHS’s Long Term Plan recently.
And yesterday NHS England announced that a new five-year contract for general practice across England will see billions of extra investment for improved access to family doctors, expanded services at local practices and longer appointments for patients who need them.
The deal – the biggest reform to GP services in fifteen years – will fund an army of 20,000 more staff to help GP practices work together as part of the local ‘primary care networks.’
In Gloucestershire, paramedics are working with some GP networks to carry out home visits in the community, which is saving GPs around 120 visits a month, whilst physiotherapists in other networks are offering more than 180 appointments.
There are also more than 40 clinical pharmacists working in practices offering expert advice on medications, along with three Mental Health Practitioners, who see around 65 patients a week.
Through these innovations and strong partnership working in PCNs, more patients are being treated close to home with fewer people needing to be referred to hospital.
Dr Nikki Kanani, a GP and NHS England’s Acting Medical Director for Primary Care, said: “Patients want to get an appointment as quickly as possible when they contact their GP surgery and it’s great news that in Gloucestershire there are now many more appointments available.
“Also a mixed team of health professionals including nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists or paramedics means patients can be seen quicker by the right health professionals for their needs, freeing up time for GPs to see the most complex patients.”
The additional health professionals often work across practices providing clinics and extra appointments. Patients are signposted to the most appropriate health professional, relieving pressure on GP appointments.
Across the NHS, 14 Integrated Care Systems (ICS) and Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships are seeing the NHS and local government join forces to improve the lives of people by joining up care and support across primary care (e.g. GPs and their teams), community services, hospitals, councils, voluntary and community organisations and charities. Spreading this approach is a key part of the long term plan and Gloucestershire’s ICS is one of the 14 most advanced areas.
Dr Jeremy Welch, a GP in Tewkesbury, said: “Introducing different skill mixes into our practices has been excellent for patients, and across Gloucestershire we have a variety of different services based on each surgery’s specific need.
“The feedback from patients and staff has been extremely pleasing and we are encouraged to keep developing the offer we are able to provide to our patients. We are in exciting times and it really feels like a team effort to support our patients.”
More appointments are available across the county from Monday to Friday 6.30pm to 8pm and Saturday mornings, plus Saturday afternoon, Sunday and bank holidays.