GPs are providing a ‘remarkable’ number of appointments and are often overlooked, the chair of NHS England has admitted.
At the national commissioner’s public board meeting yesterday, Richard Meddings sought to highlight the ‘huge value of the contribution’ GPs and other primary care staff make.
He also said the ‘portrayal’ of primary care in the media is sometimes ‘just wrong’.
Pointing to a study published last week which found that serious harm associated with remote GP consultations is ‘extremely rare’, he pointed out that most mainstream media outlets reported instead that remote appointments put patients at risk.
At the board meeting, NHS England’s interim director of primary care Alex Morton updated on the GP recovery plan, saying there had been ‘significant progress’ in the first six months.
But she said there is a ‘challenging backdrop’ and ‘significant pressure’ in primary care, highlighting that more than one million GP appointments take place every day.
In response, Mr Meddings said: ‘Primary care is doing 17% more appointments than it did pre the pandemic, which is a remarkable lift.
‘And we often lose sight of just the huge value of the contribution not just of our GPs but our practice nurses and physios and social prescribers etc. who function in primary care for us.’
He added: ‘Sometimes there is a portrayal of what primary care does and the way it’s provided to patients which is just wrong.’
This was an obligation in this year’s contract with a deadline of 31 October, however the primary care recovery plan, published in May, set a target for 90% of practices to enable records access by March 2024.
Yesterday, Ms Morton said they are ‘on track’ to achieve this goal, and emphasised the ‘big impact’ this has on both ‘convenience for patients’ and ‘effectiveness and efficiency for practices’.
The progress update also revealed that, based on ‘early findings’, the National General Practice Improvement Programme has achieved a 20% drop in practice call wait times and 50% reduction in abandoned calls for the 1,200 practices who have taken part.
Last month, NHSE instructed ICBs to prioritise ‘financial balance’, with the GP recovery plan among a host of targets being deprioritised for now.
ICBs were asked to focus on emergency performance, high priority elective care and cancer care.