As PCNs meet the milestone of hiring more than 26,000 ARRS staff, Neil O’Brien says that the Government will soon announce further measures to boost the NHS workforce
General practice is the foundation of our NHS and the first port of call for most of us when we need healthcare. As a government, we are determined to improve access to appointments.
We are investing around £3 billion a year in general practice teams. It is vital those teams have the staff they need. We promised to recruit 26,000 additional primary care professionals by March 2024 and today’s NHS England figures show we have hit that target well ahead of schedule.
This milestone means there are more staff in multi-disciplinary teams including dieticians, paramedics and physiotherapists. Increasing the size and skills of the primary care workforce will relieve pressure in other areas of the healthcare system and help cut waiting lists, one of the Government’s five priorities.
We published our Primary Care Recovery Plan to make it easier for patients to see a GP. Backed by £240 million, as part of a major overhaul of primary care, the plan provides funding to practices to embrace the latest technology, replacing old analogue phones with modern systems so patients never get engaged tones and easy to use online tools to ensure patients get the care they need as soon as possible.
Among the bigger workforce are pharmacists working in GP surgeries, with one pharmacist noting how he delivers an estimated 100 appointments a week, helping with queries about medicine and reviewing the health of patients with long-term conditions. This is part of the more collaborative working we want to encourage.
Dedicated care coordinators who work with voluntary and care home services are provide supporting patients that have life-limiting conditions. There are now thousands more care coordinators working in general practices, ensuring all services are integrated, and strengthening the links between voluntary and care home services.
I am immensely grateful for the work done by the extra 29,103 primary care professionals confirmed by today’s statistics – and for the dedication of all primary care staff, who are already delivering 10% more appointments than before the pandemic.
There are also about 2,000 more doctors in general practice than in 2019, along with a record 4,000 in training – up from 2,671 in 2014. We want to go further, so will be announcing further measures to boost the NHS workforce in our forthcoming NHS workforce plan soon.
Neil O’Brien is minister for primary care