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'Reserve one third of slots for urgent care', GPs advised

By Lilian Anekwe

Practices should reserve a third of daily appointments for patients seeking urgent care, according to a new analysis of best practice by a primary care think tank.

The report, by the Primary Care Foundation, recommends practices also make better use of telephone consultations to cater for the needs of patients who need to be seen urgently.

The in-depth study of urgent care provision in five PCTs found access was often a problem, with practices implementing ‘unreasonable' barriers to urgent care.

‘In one extreme, patients were made to queue outside the surgery. When the doors were opened, they were given an appointment and told to come back later. Inevitably, those further back in the queue found it harder to get a same-day appointment.

It continues: ‘At the other extreme we found a practice which effectively banned patients from attending in person, requiring them to phone to book an appointment or a telephone consultation with a clinician.'

It concluded: ‘We found two-thirds advance to one-third same-day appointments appears to be the right mix for the normal demand facing many practices as this reflects the character of general practice workload.'

Dr David Carson, director of the Primary Care Foundation, said: ‘The report identifies the key steps practices need to take to improve the response to urgent cases and requests for same-day appointments. I hope we have set the principles; it is now up to GPs and staff to make these a reality.'

The report was endorsed by the RGCP and the GPC, but in a joint statement, Professor Steve Field and Dr Laurence Buckman urged primary care organisations to give practices the funding to make the recommendations a reality.

They said:: ‘All too often practices' desire to improve patient services is frustrated by insufficient capacity, substandard premises and inadequate funding. The ability of practices to implement the recommendations depends heavily on PCO support and predictable, adequate funding.'

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