This article was taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jul/01/nhs-primary-care-networks-gp-focus-vulnerable-patients
Patients will have the opportunity of longer appointments with their GP from Monday under a new initiative of practices working together.
About 7,000 surgeries across England have come together to form more than 1,200 primary care networks to deliver a wider range of specialist care services.
Local surgeries will recruit teams including pharmacists, physiotherapists, paramedics, physician associates and social prescribing link workers – who help people to unpick complex issues affecting their wellbeing – thus freeing GPs up to focus on the most vulnerable patients. The initiative comes alongside efforts to recruit more GPs as part of the NHS long-term plan.
The latest figures show an increase of 300 family doctors on the previous quarter and the number of young doctors choosing to train as GPs is now at an unprecedented high after increasing by 750.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England and part of the senior leadership team for NHS Improvement, said: “Strengthening general practice is a central part of the long-term plan, and primary care networks [PCN] have the potential to bring about the biggest improvement for a generation.
“As the PCNs get up and running in the coming weeks and months, patients will begin to see the benefits, freeing up GPs to focus on the sickest. This new way of working allows us to keep all that’s best about British general practice, while future-proofing it for the decade ahead.”
The NHS said there were also thousands more nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals working in general practice compared with recent years. Another 20,000, who will include social prescribing link workers, are being recruited to work alongside GPs.
The NHS long-term plan will increase funding for primary medical and community care as a share of the NHS budget for the first time in the health service’s 70-year history, with an extra £4.5bn a year invested by 2023.
Additional funding from the five-year GP contract agreed with the British Medical Association in January includes £1.8bn to fund the recruitment of 20,000 more specialist healthcare staff to support general practices.
This builds on the increase of more than 5,000 extra practice staff working with GPs over the past four years and the introduction of digital appointments.
It comes after evening and weekend appointments were made available across the country at the end of last year with an estimated 9m appointments a year now available at more convenient times.
Dr Nikki Kanani, a London GP and NHS England’s acting medical director for primary care, said: “People across the country will benefit from access to more convenient and specialist care through their local GP. As part of the long-term plan for the NHS, GP surgeries large and small will be working together to deliver more specialist services to patients.
“The extra investment, additional staff and more convenient care will be a game-changer for NHS patients – and in thousands of communities across England, family doctors are coming together in networks, which will not only deliver better care, but a more efficient use of vital NHS resources.”