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New Government targets for PCTs on GP access

The Government has launched a renewed crackdown on GP access via a series of stringent targets for PCTs under its flagship World Class Commissioning strategy.

GPs face greater scrutiny on the number of appointments they offer and having their patient survey scores shared with peers to drive up standards as part of a fresh raft of measures to improve GP access.

New guidance from the Department of Health advises trusts to investigate variations in opening hours, in-hours closing, and practices that have very few pre bookable appointments per day.

Improving GP Access and Responsiveness also calls on PCTs to make greater use of private consultancy firms to provide support in developing balanced scorecards to help improve GP access.

Despite the huge clampdown on access already imposed through this year's patient survey, which Pulse revealed will strip practices across the UK of £35m worth of funding, the guidance makes it clear that practices still have plenty to do, and leaves trusts in no doubt as to what is expected of them if they are to meet tough commissioning targets.

The guidance suggests that GPs could ‘re-run' the GP Patient Survey at practice level, just months after the Government decided to scrap the previous practice-based Patient Choice Survey in favour of the larger postal survey.

It also suggests more trusts could use private firms to help develop more balanced scorecard-style tools to improve access in failing practices.

It comes after Pulse revealed last month that NHS managers in Barking and Dagenham had moved to terminate contracts of GPs failing to meet rigorous access targets, after enlisting consultancy firm McKinsey to carry out a wide-ranging review.

The new guidance hails the McKinsey project as a blueprint for improving access, which could mean more trusts following Barking and Dagenham's lead in clamping down on underperforming practices.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, GPC negotiator with responsibility for commissioning, said:

‘We need to remember the ethos of new GMS was a lighter touch, to give practices ownership and flexibility. We would not wish to see simplistic, prescriptive micro-management of surgery appointment times.'

‘The Government is obsessed with access, but I'm not sure what the problem is the Government is trying to address. The patient survey has again shows extremely high levels of patient satisfaction.'

The Department of Health has set tough new targets for PCTs on GP access The Department of Health has set tough new targets for PCTs on GP access

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