Over 700 GP practices struggling with access will have completed an ‘intensive’ support programme by June, NHS England has said.
The ‘Accelerate Programme’, which began in December 2021, provides 20 weeks of ‘hands-on structured support’, and NHS England said 80% of practices chose to extend their participation beyond this initial period.
Giving an operational update at the most recent board meeting, NHS England chief operating officer Sir David Sloman reported that 73% of practices from the first three phases of the programme have ‘generated productivity gains’ which have freed up GP time.
The programme was introduced as part of NHS England’s 2021 GP access plan, and started with 200 practices with the worst access getting ‘intensive and accelerated’ support to ‘help them reduce waits’ and ‘increase the number of appointments offered each day’.
At the time, NHS England asked ICBs to identify the 20% of practices in their area that are performing worst in terms of delivering face-to-face appointments.
The access plan was announced by then-health secretary Sajid Javid along with £250m of funding for general practice to increase the proportion of appointments delivered face to face.
The fourth phase of the programme began in November 2022 and aimed to support an additional 250 practices within the year 2022/23, according to an NHS England document from September.
The document also said the fourth phase was a ‘new offer’ aimed at practices who were locally identified as having challenges, such as being in an area of high deprivation or having a high number of complaints.
The board meeting update last Thursday revealed that by June 2023 a total of 724 practices will have received support throughout all phases of the programme.
According to the NHSE document, the 20-week support programme includes a ‘smoothing patient flow’ module, four group-based learning sessions and 12 on-site visits from a quality improvement facilitator.
Sir David’s update said: ‘Data from the first three programme phases shows that 73% practices generated productivity gains, such as improved efficiency of key practice processes, releasing clinical and administration time.
‘Practices report increased staff resilience and redirecting freed-up time to support wider practice workload, including more appointments and clinicians spending more time with patients with complex needs.’
The Hereward Group Practice in Lincolnshire has been taking part in the programme, which has included weekly facilitated sessions.
Practice manager Tracey Mason said: ‘Along with GP practices nationally we are experiencing really high levels of demand, as our workload figures show.
‘We need to make sure that we are doing as much as we can with the time and resources available and so this programme allows our team to see where changes can be made to help us make gains where we can.
‘We are working with an experienced facilitator who makes suggestions and gives feedback on progress so far.’