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GPs invited to apply for £50m pilot to extend access and choice of practice

GP practices have been asked to submit proposals for ‘innovative’ ways of improving access by February, including encouraging them to compete with one another for patients outside their boundaries, to receive part of a £50m NHS England fund.

A statement from NHS England follows on from Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement of the £50m fund in the autumn, and reiterates plans to fund opening on Saturdays and Sundays.

But it also controversially encourages practices to submit ideas on promoting ‘extending choice by allowing practices to grow their lists and take on patients from outside traditional practice boundary areas’.

It also encourages practices to consider ways of increasing use of consultations via phone, email, webcam and instant messaging, use of online systems of patient registration, and greater use of telecare.

The scheme will be rolled out across the country, NHS England said.

The statement said: ‘NHS England also wants practices or groups of practices wishing to test new models for providing GP services. These bids would show potential benefits around access to services plus demonstrate a more integrated approach to “wrap around” community services;  more integration around urgent care services and extending choice by allowing practices to grow their lists and take on patients from outside traditional practice boundary areas.’

Dr Mike Bewick, a GP and deputy medical director at NHS England, said: ‘We need to address the calls for more convenient services for patients and we need to make better use of the technology we have at our fingertips. 

‘The pilots will enable us to roll out best practice more widely across the NHS and will feed into the review of seven day services. This could be a key moment in the development of the future of GP practices and we want them to come forward and make use of the fund to deliver more personalised patient focused services.’  

‘General practice has demonstrated that it can come up with innovative ways to deliver better more convenient services. This is the time for GPs to play a much stronger role, as part of a more integrated system of out-of-hospital care. These pilots will allow us to develop some of these new models to see how they work on the ground.’

Dr Bewick later told Pulse that the continuity of seeing the same doctor is ‘history’.

He said: ‘Time has moved on. The absolute continuity of seeing one doctor for the rest of your life is probably history, it is not something that happen often these days.’