GPs are to receive funding to support them to deliver pre-pandemic levels of appointments, including face-to-face-care, NHS England has said.
A new planning document published today revealed that NHS England will soon announce ‘continued investment’ in GP capacity and access for the second half (H2) of 2021/22, which runs from October to March.
The document said: ‘Systems are asked to support practices with access challenges so that all practices are delivering appropriate pre-pandemic appointment levels, including face-to-face care as part of a blended access model.
‘We will shortly set out details of continued investment in H2 to support general practice capacity and improve access.’
In June, NHS England published a new target for GP practices to deliver appointments ‘at or above’ pre-pandemic levels for 2021/22.
However, at the time it stressed that practices should be ‘consolidating and maximising the use of digital consultation methods’ as part of achieving the target.
It said that practices would be assessed on the number of available GP appointments as well as access to remote consultations.
Meanwhile, NHS England revealed last week that additional Covid funding for general practice for the second half of this financial year is ‘to be confirmed’.
It said the ‘general capacity funding’ to ‘maximise workforce capacity’ for the second half of 2021/22 was ‘TBC’.
It also set out upcoming ‘improvements to remote triage and online consultation access’ in primary care as part of measures to relieve pressure on A&E departments.
But it added that GPs should be striking a ‘balance’ between ‘making best use of technology’ and face-to-face appointments.
Another NHS England planning document, also published today, said that systems should ‘continue to support PCNs and practices to optimise the use of [remote consultation] technologies, including by funding advanced telephony, to improve experience for patients and practice staff’.
It said this follows the ‘successful deployment of remote consultation systems during the pandemic’.
It added: ‘Primary care is under intense pressure. Systems are asked to continue to prioritise local investment and support for general practice as well as PCNs, with a particular focus on GP recruitment and retention and ensuring access for patients.’
The document said that ‘expanding primary care capacity to improve access, local health outcomes and address health inequalities’ is one of six key priorities for the second half of the year.
It comes as the latest official data has revealed that GP practices in England saw five million more patients in August this year compared to the same month last year.