GP scheme frees up half a million hours for patients – Pickering case study

  • North Yorkshire GP practice part of successful NHS England pilot
  • Programme to be extended for three years and rolled out further

An NHS programme has seen GP practices free up more than half a million hours of time for patients in the last year.

The Time for Care programme sees surgeries across the country adopt new ways of working like letting patients book appointments sooner, cutting paperwork and offering faster access to different specialist health professionals.

For one surgery in Pickering, North Yorkshire, it’s meant appointment waiting times have almost halved.

The Pickering Medical Practice in North Yorkshire, an early adopter of the programme, has five full time equivalent GPs serving a patient population of 10,500. But through its Time For Care programme it reduced GP appointment waiting times by nearly half. As patients are able to see a GP sooner the demand for urgent care consultations has fallen from 48% of the total to 37%. There has also been a 12% increase in telephone appointments, which has reduced the number of patients seeing a GP face-to-face by 8%.

The programme, which will now be rolled out across the country after success in pilot sites, has been extended for three years beyond its initial March 2019 end date and aims to cover three quarters of GP practices by 2022.

The decision comes after the programme posted its latest results which show practices around the country have freed up 205,157 clinical hours and 330,096 administration hours in the past year, all of which helps focus maximum effort and resource on quick and convenient patient care.

The saving of 205,00 clinical hours is the equivalent of 1.23 million GP appointments of 10 minutes each. At an average of £30 an appointment, that represents close to £40million in time saved. If the same number of clinical hours saved are achieved over the next three years, it would represent around 3.7 million GP appointments – or around £110 million in terms of appointment time saved.

Dr Nikita Kanani, NHS England’s Medical Director for Primary Care: “This programme has had significant benefits for patients and GPs alike, freeing up doctors’ time and NHS resources to ensure people get the care they need as quickly as possible, as part of our Long Term Plan for the health service.

“GP services will continue to be at the heart of our health service, and it makes sense to invest for another three years in a programme that is delivering so much for patients while helping us to be more efficient.”

The renewed push to free up GPs to spend more time with patients comes on top of a new five-year contract for general practice across England, which 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.

This will see 20,000 more staff – including clinical pharmacists, physiotherapists, community paramedics, associate physicians and social prescribing link workers – employed to help GP practices work together to provide a wider range of care for patients, closer to their homes.

The three-year extension is part of a £30m investment in a national programme for General Practice Development committed to in the GP Forward View.

Helena Ebbs a GP at Pickering Medical Practice said: “The programme has had a great impact on patients, me, the practice, my role in the CCG and federation.  It’s energised my enthusiasm in a time of great pressure and given me something to enjoy.  There’s been lots of benefits for my practice and patients, and I am really proud of the changes we’ve made.”

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