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.’
- 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
NHS England 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 England 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. Dr Nikita Kanani, NHS England’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.”