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Government pledges £240m for GP telephony upgrades as part of ‘recovery plan’

Government pledges £240m for GP telephony upgrades as part of ‘recovery plan’

The Government has announced £240m funding for practices in England to ‘embrace latest technology’ as part of its GP recovery plan.

The full recovery plan is expected this week, but as part of its initial announcement, the Department of Health and Social Care said that the money will be used for ‘replacing old analogue phones with modern systems so patients never get engaged tones’.

This had already been stipulated in the contract imposition, which said that practices will be required to procure this technology from a national framework, called Better Purchasing Framework

As part of the recovery plan, health secretary Steve Barclay will announce a major expansion of the role of receptionists to become expert ‘care navigators’.

In the imposed GP contract, NHS England said that practices will need to provide access to patients at ‘first contact’, and the DHSC said that the new systems will mean that patients ‘will know on the day…how their query will be managed’.

However, the RCGP said that improved telephony was ‘one part of the jigsaw’, adding that access will not be improved without more GPs.

More details of the recovery plan are expected tomorrow, and the BMA has previously said it expects workload dump from secondary care to be addressed.

The 2023/24 imposed contract had already

In today’s announcement, the DHSC said: ‘Practices across the UK will also be given £240 million this year to embrace the latest technology, replacing old analogue phones with modern systems so patients never get engaged tones and easy to use online tools to ensure patients get the care they need as soon as possible.

‘This will mean when patients contact their practice online or over the phone, they will know on the day they make contact how their query will be managed, rather than being told to call back later. If their need is urgent, they will be assessed and given appointments on the same day. If it is not urgent, appointments should be offered within two weeks, or patients will be referred to NHS 111 or a local pharmacy.’

Mr Barclay said: ‘I want to make sure people receive the right support when they contact their general practice and bring an end to the 8am scramble for appointments.

‘To do this we are improving technology and reducing bureaucracy, increasing staffing and changing the way primary care services are provided, which are all helping to deliver on the government’s promise to cut waiting lists.’

However, Professor Kamilla Hawthorne, chair of the RCGP, said: ‘Investment into improved telephony systems in general practice with sufficient numbers of trained people to use them is one part of the jigsaw in improving access, and it is something the College has called for and welcomes. We await further details of the full access recovery plan, but ultimately the best way to improve access to GP care and address the intense workload and workforce pressures GP teams are working under, is to increase numbers of fully trained, full-time equivalent GPs through effective recruitment and retention schemes.

‘The public need to be aware of what’s achievable. Politicians think that promising faster access will improve services and win votes, but many practices are already struggling for lack of GPs and other clinical staff.’



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

David Church 8 May, 2023 9:25 am

Mr Barclay apparently said “‘To do this we are improving technology and reducing bureaucracy, increasing staffing and …”
But in reality, they are cutting staffing by increasing expenses and reducing GMS core funding!
Staff are walking away from or unwilling to apply for jobs at or below minimum wage, so GPs do not even have the option of more cheaper staff, even if this were fair and respectful to staff.
Bureaucracy is not reducing, but increasing with changes to death certification, etc.
‘Forcing technology changes’ would be more appropriate than ;improving technology’ : –
What benefits does ‘cloud telephony’ actually bring in practice?
– in reality, patients will no longer hear the engaged tone, but will be sat hanging on, and paying for, extremely prolonged recorded messages or ‘hold music’, probably with no estimate of how long they will have to sit holding the phone before a receptionist/navigator is available to actually speak to them.
There are only 3 ways to reduce the 8am scramble :
1) provide more GP (no)
2) reduce demand for appointments
3) change how incoming phone messsages are handled
It seems Government has chosen (2), and is achieving it by reducing the population by denying them medical care.

Richard Greenway 8 May, 2023 11:50 am

We don’t need more phone lines, we need more staff to answer them, & staff to action the calls.
Many of our staff are now close to minimum wage (as this has risen by 9.7%).
Without staff based funding, GP will have less people to answer the phone.

Steve McOne 8 May, 2023 12:40 pm

‘BT Handset No.15 will see you now’

Nick Mann 8 May, 2023 12:42 pm

Agree with comments above. My Practice spent £30,000 on one of these new telephony systems five years ago. It solved nothing. Access and patient satisfaction deteriorated, with desperate patients turning up at the door having spent literally hours (and money) stuck in the endless virtual ‘waiting room’.
This is another move towards centralising medical/GP access into callcentres as it proves to be a wasteful distraction benefiting only the tech companies. BTW, does anyone in NHSE have financial/Board interests in the provider framework?

Furthermore, it’s very clearly the wrong solution to the problem, by any reasoned logic.

Mr Marvellous 8 May, 2023 8:40 pm

New phones…

At least punters will found out really really quickly that there aren’t any appointments left.

Turn out The Lights 9 May, 2023 8:37 am

Had these phones for a year of more punters get a little P+++ed off when they fine out their 50th in the queue.

Michael Mullineux 9 May, 2023 10:53 am

Not really a plan and not even in the least bit cunning …

Madhavi Joshi 9 May, 2023 6:42 pm

Not of any use……new phone system not going triage patient calls automatically….
You still need clinician to triage those calls….new phone system can not be a replacement for a clinician…
This is so simple to understand..
Why health secretary or whosoever making this so called “recovery plan” can not make sense of this common sense…