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GPs offered cash to open up appointment booking to NHS 111 call handlers

Exclusive GPs are being offered 70p per patient to open up their appointments for ‘direct booking’ by NHS 111 call handlers as part of a major pilot of new urgent care models.

The north-east England scheme will allow patients to be remotely allocated a GP appointment by the urgent care hotline, should they require one, in a bid to improve patient outcomes and boost access to GP appointments.

But local leaders have warned that the funding is likely to run out, leaving practices with no way to control their workload.

The pilot is being led by the North East Urgent and Emergency Care Network (NEUECN), one of eight urgent and emergency care ‘vanguards’ announced last year that are piloting new ways of configuring urgent care.

A spokesperson said that the scheme would ‘provide simpler and more secure access for patients who would otherwise be directed to GPs through less secure routes’.

A ‘range of payment levels were discussed, and the final amount of 70p per registered patient was set in line with the funding available to the project’, the spokesperson added.

The payments will be made via CCGs but NEUECN will be working with GP leaders and practices across its patch to handle concerns. 

But Dr George Rae, chief executive officer of Newcastle and North Tyneside LMC, told Pulse he had concerns over the scheme.

He said: ’[I]t looks like the funding is a one-off with the input from NHS 111 continuing for four to five years.

‘That’s something I know is causing concern in the LMC and [our local GP] federation… [That GPs will be asked to continue to do this] without any funding in the future.’

Dr Rae added: ’At the end of the day it’s up to the partnerships to decide what they’re going to do. I would, personally, have very significant reservations about that at this point in time.’

The North-East urgent care vanguard covers a population of 2.7m patients across Northumberland, Newcastle, Sunderland and County Durham and is trialling methods including reviewing how ’urgent care should be empowered to make direct referrals to primary care’.

NHS 111 problems go on and on

phone, telephone, nhs 111, phone call, call centre - online

phone, telephone, nhs 111, phone call, call centre - online

Source: shutterstock

NHS 111 has been a persistent thorn in GPs’ sides since it launched – with disastrous consequences – in 2013.

The system replaced nurses with lay call handlers who follow a series of pre-programmed questions to triage patients and recommend a disposition. GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul has criticised the scheme for ‘disproportionately’ recommending patients go to their GP adding unnecessarily to practice workload.

Last year, as part of an NHS England bid to mitigate winter pressures, NHS 111 providers were told to recruit GPs to give advice to call handlers at peak times and boost the input from clinically trained professionals.

And health secretary Jeremy Hunt has previously proposed the opposite, suggesting at a national conference that lay call handlers should be able to access patient records and ‘use more of their judgement.

Last summer NHS England put a temporary halt on the procurement of new NHS 111 contracts while it deliberated plans to link the service with GP out-of-hours.

 

Readers' comments (42)

  • If you accept these 30 shillings of silver you deserve everything you will get.

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  • Here's the problem: my receptionists can make a sensible judgement on whether a patient needs to be seen now, soon, or not at all. NHS111 cannot. That is because my receptionists have brains, but NHS111 has only algorithms. 70p per patient will remove any control that you currently have over demand.
    Say no.

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  • NHS 111 generally equals two pages of nonsense. They are useless, please dont let them loose on our appointment system, its bad enough already!

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  • Mistake to open your doors to this. Likely to confuse patients ( you now ring 111 for an apt at the surgery!) and irritate GP staff

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  • is this what is in Jeremy's package?

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  • I called 111 a year ago to find an emergency dentist to treat a patient sat opposite me with a huge dental abscess, and because I stated that the patient had pain in her jaw had to answer all the call handlers subsequent questions relating to cardiac chest pain. At the end of around 5 frustrating minutes, repeatedly stating that the problem was dental and definitely not cardiac, I was told that they still had to arrange to speak to the patient personally and they refused to give me the details I had requested! I would not open up my appointments for any amount of money.

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  • I agree with everything said earlier. But there's another aspect of this: it will also allow those in charge to gather 'statistics' suggesting that practices don't open up appointments to satisfy patient demand (however trivial the problems) and therefore give Hunt yet another stick to beat us with. 'NHS 111 frustrated by GP's laziness, and here are the statistics to show how much greater the need is than the apppointment slots they bother to make available.')
    I would have much more sympathy with this if there were a mandatory minimum appointment length and a mandatory cap on the number of patient who could safely be seen in a day. Then the boot would be on the other foot and we could expect the DH or NHSE to have to do the balancing act to ensure that only the most important situations were allowed into the ever-reducing number of appointments slots that nationwide will be available as practice fold.

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  • Open up your appointments to NHS 111?

    Really?

    We know they are useless but now deluded as well.

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  • The 70pence is spread over 4 or 5 years and is therefore only 14pend per year and if GPs cancel their involvement they have to give all the money back. The scheme states it is to INCREASE patients going to practices not re-direct them.
    Practices are desperate for money and are being abused with offers of small sums and only for extra work to take the work off A&E and hospital admissions not for core work where we are all crumbling. This is a typical such scheme. Don't be deceived. They are shifting the work to us with minimal transfer of funds and GP colleagues on CCGs are complicit.

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