General practice has been told to increase the total volume of appointment levels as part of a £250m funding package announced by NHS England today.
The plan revealed practices that do not reach pre-pandemic levels of face-to-face appointments by November will not receive any funding and will instead be offered ‘support to improve’.
NHS England said appointment levels should ‘reflect the full deployment of ARRS staff’.
This comes as GPs delivered five million more appointments in August this year compared with the same month last year.
The NHS England plan for ‘improving access for patients and supporting general practice’ said that commissioners must aim to ensure practices achieve ‘at least pre-pandemic activity levels for the equivalent period’, but this excludes appointments for Covid-19 vaccinations.
It also said commissioners should: ‘Increase overall appointment volumes in general practice and ensure appointment levels reflect the full deployment of ARRS staff.
‘Practices who are not achieving pre-pandemic appointment levels by November will not be able to access the Winter Access Fund but should access further support.’
The latest data showed an estimated 25.5 million GP appointments took place in August this year, including 1.5 million Covid vaccinations, compared with 20.4 million in August 2020.
The NHS Digital data also showed an increase in the proportion of appointments that were delivered face to face of almost one percentage point – rising from 56.9% in July to 57.7%.
Almost eight in 10 (79.5%) appointments were face to face in August 2019.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said the plan will help ‘tackle underperformance’ and ‘increase the number of face-to-face appointments’.