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Chronicle Live
Martin Bagot & Aaron Morris

GP surgeries must give patients appointment slot first time they call to end 8am rush

GP practices have been ordered to offer patients immediate 'assessment of need' - meaning that they will no longer be allowed to offer call backs at later dates.

NHS England has imposed the new rule for family doctors after a breakdown in talks with the British Medical Association (BMA).

The NHS is also advising that GPs prescribe statins and exercise to a bigger proportion of the UK as a 'preventative measure'.

Read more: Full list of Newcastle GP surgeries and how many appointments were offered in a month

The Mirror reports that the BMA is now considering whether to ballot GPs for strike action after Health Secretary Steve Barclay and NHS England added more stipulations around patient access but offered no extra funding for staffing. It comes as total full-time-equivalent GP numbers continue to drop despite growing demand from the ageing population.

Practices have also been told they will need to offer automatic access to future patient records through the NHS app. The contract letter, which was sent to GPs on Monday afternoon, was not agreed with the BMA GP Committee.

The main changes in the contract includes an update to: “Make clear that patients should be offered an assessment of need, or signposted to an appropriate service, at first contact with the practice”.

Key targets for GPs to meet will be cut from 36 to five but include one requirement that all patients who need an appointment within a fortnight should get one. Others relate to flu vaccinations, learning disability health checks and early cancer diagnosis.

NHS director of primary care Dr Ursula Montgomery said: “GP teams have worked hard to deliver record numbers of appointments with half a million more delivered each week last year compared to pre-pandemic, and this new contract aims to build on this further with more access for patients.

“As well as providing same day care to more than two fifths of patients, GP teams will also step-up preventive action against heart attacks and strokes over the next year, with health professionals encouraged to prescribe statins alongside other preventative measures such as exercise to a much wider number of patients with heart disease, arterial disease and those who suffered a stroke or who have high levels of cholesterol.

“This contract supports GP teams to provide what matters to patients.”

A £246m funding pot which had been previously announced will be directed to improving patient experience of contacting their practice and providing appointments within two weeks. Funding will also be directed to improving practices’ phone systems.

Prof Aruna Garcea, primary care chair at the NHS Confederation, said: “Primary care is carrying out 11% more appointments than before the pandemic, which is particularly impressive given their patients tend to present with multiple and more complex needs.”

Dr Kieran Sharrock, general practice chair at the BMA, said: “This does absolutely nothing to improve what is fast-becoming an irreparable situation for practices and their patients up and down the country.

“This contract is the result of a failure to listen to what GPs actually need, and totally ignores the calls for any extra support to help practices meet the rising costs of keeping their doors open. Ministers have focused on eking out more without providing the resources to do this.

“We will now look to enter serious discussions with our membership and the wider profession on what action we take next.”

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