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GP practices asked to ‘proactively’ visit vulnerable patients over winter

GPs have been asked to provide thousands more appointments and ‘proactive’ visits to vulnerable patients, under CCG plans to ease the pressure on A&E departments this winter.

Pulse has learnt that three CCGs in Leeds are all planning to commission additional services from GPs and out-of-hours services over the winter break in a bid to head off any crisis in emergency care.

The proposals from NHS Leeds North CCG, NHS Leeds South and East CCG and NHS Leeds West will see GP practices providing thousands more appointments over the Christmas and New Year period.

The proposals come amid a major focus on how greater access to GPs can ease the pressure on A&E departments. A recent major NHS England review into urgent care suggested that GPs should offer more same-day phone consultations to reduce the burden on ‘creaking’ emergency services.

NHS Leeds North CCG is proposing to commission its member practices to identify patients at risk of hospital admission and put in place an emergency care plan which will support carers and relatives during the winter period. Local out-of-hours services will also provide weekend and evening GP clinics.

NHS Leeds South and East CCG is asking practices to open on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year for the urgent care needs of registered patients and patients registered with other GP practices in the same locality.

A CCG spokesperson said: ‘For the period covering 27 and 28 December we expect an additional 420 appointments will be available.’

Leeds West CCG say its scheme to offer an enhanced service incentivising practices to plan and manage demand from 1 December to 28 February has been ‘well received’.

In a statement, the CCG said: ‘We estimate that the scheme will generate an additional 8,513 appointments in the three months from 1 December 2013 to 28 February 2014. Appointments, which will either be with a GP or practice nurse, will consist of pre-bookable and on-the-day appointments as well as proactive visits to support vulnerable patients both housebound or in care homes. The cost to the CCG equates to 50p per patient.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair and assistant medical secretary of Leeds LMC, welcomed the additional funding for GP practices.

He said: ‘These models show there’s not one easy solution to winter pressures and it’s good that all the CCGs are investing additional resource in general practice this winter as all practices in the city need support.’

‘It’s not agreed between the CCGs - it’s in the nature of independence of CCGs that they can make decisions based on local conditions.’

‘It will be interesting to see which approach works best at the end of the winter.’

The CCGs in Leeds are also working together on a public information campaign throughout the winter period called ‘Is A&E the best place for me?’. The campaign includes a dedicated microsite, a push on social media, advertising on buses and a range of printed information materials distributed throughout the city.

All three strategies for the Leeds CCG will have impact assessments performed after the event to see what difference these strategies have had upon the Leeds health economy.

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