Analysis: How the Government’s seven-day GP access scheme could work
Dr Ivan Benett describes his experience as clinical director of NHS Central Manchester CCG, whose scheme was hailed by the Government as a prototype
Our overriding ambition is to provide a service for the people of central Manchester that is consistent and of the highest quality.
The first step is to be available when people are ill, or believe themselves to be ill. This means increasing the capacity in primary care to see more people at the times they are able to access the service.
So, our aim is to begin to offer longer opening times by this Christmas to the population of one of our localities – around 50,000 patients. Each locality has about eight practices. The £500,000 scheme will eventually see one practice in each locality open for business from 8am to 8pm on weekdays and for three hours on Saturdays and Sundays. When surgeries are closed people will be seen at this locality hub. We want people to come to this service rather than go unnecessarily to A&E, especially between 6pm and 8pm. We also aim to be able to match the standards currently delivered by the out-of-hours service for responsiveness to urgent demand.
The extended access scheme will only work if practices can share patient records [between GP practices], after appropriate consent from patients. So that will happen when we start and then we will roll it out more once we learn what the pitfalls are.
In the medium term, once we get the technology working, I would hope that we could progress to sharing electronic patient records with emergency and urgent care services.
We are still working out the financial details but GPs will be paid roughly the usual fee they would have earned under the extended hours DES. No one doubts or underestimates the challenges of resource and workforce capacity, but without timely access the rest will not be possible.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if in three years’ time outcomes improve, extremes of variation reduce, and all our patients can say ‘I am able to access the health service, at a time that I need it, and am confident of getting the best quality care when that becomes necessary’?