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NHS England sets out ‘aspiration’ for GPs to guarantee patients an appointment within four hours



GPs may have to provide access to patients within just four hours under ‘aspirational’ plans set out by an NHS England regional area team.

The proposal, made by NHS England’s London regional director Dr Anne Rainsberry at an event to ‘improve primary care’, was welcomed by the Department of Health, which praised it as an ‘innovative’ scheme to keep people out of hospitals.

However, local GP leaders said that NHS England in London was wrong to blame ‘poor primary care’, and that it should instead look for ‘sensible solutions’.

Dr Rainsberry told journalists at an event yesterday that offering patients four-hour access to GPs would help ease pressures on A&E.

An NHS England in London spokesperson told Pulse afterwards that Dr Rainsberry’s comments should be seen as an ‘aspiration’.

The spokesperson added: ‘It was part of a discussion about young people in London visiting A&E departments rather than GP services as they know that they will be seen within four hours. Our position is clear that primary care needs to change to meet the needs of the whole London population.’

A DH spokesperson said: ‘It is encouraging to hear about the innovative plans GPs are putting in place to deal with the high demand on A&E services.’

‘GPs are ideally placed to support people to stay well and out of hospital and we are working closely with NHS England to consider how primary care can be further strengthened to support such innovative ways of working. This will form a key part of our vulnerable older people’s plan, due to be launched in the autumn.’

Dr Rainsberry’s remarks came at the launch of an NHS England London regional team initiative to ‘improve primary care’, attended by more than 200 NHS and social care leaders who met to discuss ‘recovery and improvement plans showing how GPs, social care providers and community services can provide better out-of-hospital care for people with long term conditions or non-life threatening but urgent care needs’.

But Dr Michelle Drage, chief executive of Londonwide LMCs, said: ‘NHS England London say the problems of A&E in London are due to poor primary care. We say the problems of general practice in London are due to a complete lack of investment over the past two decades in our primary care infrastructure in London, combined with ridiculous four hour targets which encourage attendance at A&E.

‘London’s GPs expect NHS England London to talk to Londonwide LMCs about how to agree sensible, sustainable and realistic solutions to address the root causes of their concerns, if together we are to crack these issues.’