Surgeries in England will be given extra cash to increase their capacity for in-person consultations. More staff will be allowed to provide medical certificates such as fit notes and driving checks, to slash admin for GPs.
Covid-19 infection control measures are also being reviewed, with a view to relaxing the rules so that more people can visit their doctor.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid thanked GPs and their teams for their “enormous efforts in the most challenging times in living memory”. He added: “I am determined to ensure patients can see their GP in the way they want, no matter where they live. Our new plan provides general practice teams with investment and targeted support.
“This will tackle underperformance, taking pressure off staff so they can spend more time with patients and increase the number of face-to-face appointments.”
In August, 58 per cent of GP appointments were in-person, compared with about 80 per cent before the pandemic.
The guidance issued today makes clear that every practice should respect patients’ preferences for face-toface care unless there are good clinical reasons for a remote appointment.
Surgeries that fail to provide an appropriate level of “access” will be named and shamed in league tables.
The measures announced include a £250million winter access fund, for locums and other extra staff.
Phone systems will be upgraded so more patients can reach their practice without being kept waiting.
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “Improving access to high quality general practice is essential for our patients and for the rest of the NHS too.”
Support for the worst-performing practices will increase, with the number getting extra help rising from 900 to 1,100. But the British Medical Association said the announcement “merely tinkers around the edges”.
BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: “After weeks of promising an ’emergency package’ to rescue general practice, we’re hugely dismayed that whilst additional funding has been promised, the package as a whole offers very little and shows a Government completely out of touch with the scale of the crisis on the ground. GPs and their teams will now be facing the worst winter for decades, and as a result, patients’ care will suffer.”
He also criticised the “preoccupation with face-to-face appointments” and called for “a more intelligent conversation about the variety of appointments and care that are available”.