More GP appointments freed up in new scheme

An NHS scheme that has enabled GP practices to free up more time for doctors to see their patients is to be extended following a successful pilot. NHS said the Time For Care scheme, tried out at certain sites since 2016, should be in place in three-quarters of GP practices by 2022. The scheme encourages practices to try innovations to cut bureaucracy. In 2018, 205,157 clinical hours – equivalent to GPs having 1.2 million more appointment slots – were freed up. NHS said that represents close to £40m in time saved, as the average cost of an appointment is £30.  The scheme also saved 330,096 administration hours in the past year. Missed GP appointments ‘cost NHS £216m’ Differences in GP access across ‘shocking’ The GP substitute will see you now  Dr Nikita Kanani, NHS ‘s medical director for primary care and a south-east London GP, said the programme has had “significant benefits for patients and GPs alike, freeing up doctors’ time and NHS resources to ensure people get the care they need as quickly as possible. “GP services will continue to be at the heart of our health service, and it makes sense to invest for another three years in a programme that is delivering so much for patients while helping us to be more efficient.”The scheme in action: one practice’s story Routine GP appointment waiting times were reduced by 47% at Pickering Medical Practice in North Yorkshire after it took part in the scheme The surgery had an average waiting time of 19 days, which led to a greater demand for urgent appointments, as patients’ conditions worsened during the time they had to wait Staff were stressed as there were high levels of patient complaints due to the long waiting time After a staff suggestion, patients are now offered a telephone appointment first, leading to a 12% increase in telephone appointments. This has reduced the number of patients seeing a GP face-to-face by 8% As patients are able to get the attention of a GP sooner, the demand for urgent care consultations has fallen from 48% of the total to 37% They also freed up GPs’ time by appointing a clinical pharmacist to deal with medication tasks and recruited a new nurse practitioner to increase the number of nurse appointments available Helena Ebbs, a GP at the practice, said she was “proud” of the changes they’d made. She said it has “had a great impact on patients” and “energised” her “enthusiasm in a time of great pressure”  The scheme now aims to cover three-quarters of GP practices by 2022. Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chairman, said the extension of the scheme was “welcome” as there was potential for the scheme to go much further “with practices considering safe, effective automation within their systems in order to free up staff time and release time for care”.  But he said “much more needs to be done to reduce the day-to-day pressures on practices so that we can make general practice a positive environment for all staff to work in. “Unsustainable workload pressures


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