Changes to General Practice
From April 2022 to March 2023 the 182 General Practices across Kent & Medway provided 10.5 million appointments an increase of 6% from the previous year. This is for a population 1.9 million, which equates to every person having the equivalent of 5.5 appointments a year, an astonishing achievement. All this work in the context of the lowest numbers of GP’s per 1000 population compared to any other area in England.
In the last few weeks there have been several directives released by the NHS some are guidance, and some are mandated. Here we explain what the recently mandated changes to the GP contract means for patients accessing their General Practice. These recent changes were not agreed by the profession and have not been accompanied by additional funding to support increased capacity.
When a patient contacts a practice, what should they now expect?
A patient can expect a response based on an assessment of their need and the finite capacity within General Practice. The contract now states that following a patient contact (in-person, phone or on-line) the General Practice must take steps to provide an ‘appropriate response’ the same day or the next day if contact is after 6.30pm.
An ‘appropriate response’ includes one of the below options:
- Invite the patient for an appointment (in-person / phone or video) at a time which is appropriate and reasonable having regard to all circumstances.
- Provide appropriate advice to the patient – this could include emailing / texting advice or signpost to on-line resources.
- Invite the patient to make use of appropriate services - this could include where suitable directing patients to community pharmacies, urgent treatment centres or A&E departments.
- Communicating with the patient:-
- asking for further information to make an adequate assessment
- if suitable the practice can let the patient know they will receive further information about their options at a future date
Following patient contact can my General Practice ask a patient to seek help from another service?
The latest changes make it clearer that an appropriate response to a patient query can include signposting patients to other sources of help that may include attending a pharmacy for advice, refer to self-care advice on a website or even suggest attendance at an urgent treatment centre, A&E or referral to the Community Pharmacy Consultation Service
Does my GP or other member of the GP team have to see me within 2 weeks?
There is no mandated requirement for General Practices to offer appointments within 14 days. There is an aspiration payment that practices working in groups called Primary Care Networks (PCNs) can work towards an offer of appointments in 2 weeks. The new contract can allow for much longer waiting times for routine appointments as long as the patient is made aware of the likely waiting time.
Published: May 16, 2023
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