£50m scheme sees GP's offering out of hours appointments and Skype check-ups

  • One in ten surgeries are going to offer patients the choice of seeing a GP out of hours as well as receiving electronic prescriptions and having check-ups over Skype. /images/careandsupport.jpg

    In October the prime minister unveiled the £50m scheme due to fears of too many people turning up to A&E when appointments with GP's were unattainable, meaning too much pressure was placed on emergency departments. Doctors were invited to apply for funding and the money means that seven million patients at over 1,100 practises will see the trials begin over the next month.

    Labour, however has raised concerns that the majority of people will still have unacceptable long waits to see their GP due to the government removing the requirement for patients to be seen within 48 hours, reports the Guardian.

    Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said it had become much harder to get a GP appointment under the coalition. He said: "The big problem with this new plan is that it won't benefit millions of people. For the vast majority who are outside of this scheme, things will carry on getting worse and they are being told to expect to wait a week for a GP appointment. No wonder more and more people are turning to A&E, which has just had its worst year in a decade."

    The new plans will see more surgeries offering a seven-day opening and 8am-8pm appointments. The use of Skype will also be greater alongside email and phone consultations for people who will find it easier.

    Funding will also be made available for more personalised care for 800,000 older people and patients with vulnerabilities as they will get a named GP responsible for their care and same-day access to a GP when needed.

    Cameron will say: "Back in October, I said I wanted to make it easier for people to get appointments that fit in around a busy working week and family commitments. There has been a great response from doctors, with lots of innovative ideas, and we will now see over seven million patients given weekend and evening opening hours, alongside more access to their family doctor on the phone, via email or even Skype."

    Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association's GP committee, said the government must be careful that extra access to surgeries is not provided at the expense of availability for the most vulnerable. "Outside of those signed up to the pilot, there will still be close to 7,000 GP practices across the country who will not be receiving extra support to improve patient access or maintain current services. Furthermore, given that this funding is only for one year, there is no assurance of these changes being affordable in future years."

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