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GPs to be part of ‘rapid response’ teams providing 24/7 urgent care

Rapid-response teams of GPs, nurses and physiotherapists will provide urgent care in the community and help keep patients out of hospital, under long-term plans unveiled for the NHS by the Government today.

The new teams will operate 24/7 and will provide both emergency treatment as well as support to help patients recover closer to home.

They were announced as the Government confirmed primary and community care will receive a £3.5bn extra real-terms annual cash injection by 2023/24.

The money is understood to come out of the additional yearly budget promised to NHS England – £20.5bn by 2023/24 – which was pledged by the Prime Minister earlier this year alongside the development of a 10-year plan for the health service.

But GPs have warned the rapid response teams will take GPs away from their routine work at a time when the profession is already suffering a recruitment crisis.

They also said money to fund the scheme should be in addition to the £20.5bn boost because it would create extra work for GPs and other staff – and the original NHS budget increase was only based on maintaining current services.

Dr Dean Eggitt, Doncaster LMC chief executive, said: ‘This scheme is extra to the care we already offer. So what I think we are being told is we are going to have to do more work with less money.’

He added: ‘The scheme itself sounds great – how could we not want care in the community for patients who urgently need it, diverting them away from A&E so genuine emergencies can be seen in the A&E department?

‘But practically speaking, we don’t have enough doctors and nurses to staff between the hours of 8am and 6pm five days a week. We already have a massive vacuum in workforce.

‘How we are going to find those extra clinicians not only to plug the current gaps but to work in this service is beyond me.

‘Whoever has come up with this service does not understand the true scale of the workforce crisis we have.’

Dr Chandra Kanneganti, BMA GPC policy lead for NHSE investment, said that while he welcomed the additional investment in primary care, the fast-track scheme would benefit hospitals more than GPs.

He said: ‘Having fast-track teams go and visit patients at home may help with some visits but it’s not really an investment in primary care.

‘It’s more like community support for acute hospitals to prevent admissions.

‘I worry this will be acute care commissioning community services…The more roles that are created like this, the more gets taken out of our control – which doesn’t help the GP recruitment crisis in primary care.’

As part of today’s £3.5bn funding announcement for primary and community care, the Government also revealed plans to roll out a national scheme providing support for care homes.

The scheme, based on a ‘successful’ pilot, will see GPs and other healthcare professionals assigned to care homes to offer tailored treatment.