Slough GPs awarded £2.9 million to improve access for patients

GPs in Slough have been given £2.9 million to improve access to care for 147,000 patients, as part of the £50m Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund.

There will be 16 practices benefiting as part of the trial known as ‘Steps to the Future’ and they will be trialling a range of options to make services more accessible to patients, including:

  • Allowing patients to book appointments at a GP practice or drop in until 8pm on weekdays and opening morning appointments at weekends.
  • Offering patients free texts as reminders about routine health checks as well as promoting wellbeing.
  • Sessions in local schools, led by the local GPs or practice nurses to develop awareness of health services and how they can be used.

More than seven million patients across the country will benefit after 20 GP collaborations were successful in bids to the fund and were awarded investment to run pilots for a year.

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

The successful schemes have been awarded sums from £400k to £5m. 5 pilot schemes have been approved across the South of England and have been given over £12 million to transform access to GP services and improve the patient experience.

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 Skype, and greater flexibility with face-to-face access.

Matthew Tait, Director, NHS England (Thames Valley) said:

“We are delighted that the Steps to the Future pilot scheme has been selected by the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund.

“As well as extending access to GPs through longer opening hours, the scheme will also be sending patients free texts to remind people about health checks and promote wellbeing.

“These schemes are important in ensuring that all local patients are able to access and receive the highest quality care.”

Dr Jim O’Donnell, Clinical Clair of Slough CCG said:

“This is great news for Slough. These plans will mean 147,000 patients will have the ability to book appointments into the early evening Monday to Friday and at weekends. We will also be offering patients more flexible appointments using telephone, email and for those that might choose it, group appointments for patients who have the same health problems. Now we have the go-ahead we can start to make improvements immediately.”

Dr Sivakumary Sithirapathy, local GP in Slough and member of the CCG Governing Body, said:

“We know that Slough has a diverse population with a wide range of health needs. I know my patients and have the experience to be able to support them through their health problems but we needed to improve access so that patients have the support when they need it. These developments will make a real difference for patients and will ensure they can get an appointment at a time convenient for them.”

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.

Dr Charles Alessi, Chairman of the National Association for 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 the “Transforming Primary Care: proactive, personalised, joined-up care for those who need it most.”

Around 223,000 people in the South 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.