NHS reforms

01.02.19

NHS to get 20,000 more support staff in major GP contract reform banning promotions of private healthcare

The number of non-GP staff in general practice – including physios, pharmacists and paramedics – will grow by 22,000 under a five-year GP contract in a deal which will also see a banning of GPs advertising private healthcare services.

The new GP contract is billed as the biggest overhaul to GP services in 15 years and, by 2023-24, will see an army of new staff take responsibility for routine appointments from family doctors in a bid to take pressure off GPs and cut waiting times.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the deal was the first major pillar in implementing the NHS Long-Term Plan, and will see some GP practices funded to recruit staff directly. The health boss also promised to speed up access to video and web appointments.

But the contract also states that GPs will be banned from advertising private healthcare services in their surgeries, preventing GP practices from charging patients in their surgeries to see a doctor quicker.

In a move aimed at curbing the blurring lines between NHS-funded and privately paid-for healthcare, the contract states that “from 2019 it will no longer be possible for any GP provider either, directly or via proxy, to advertise or host private, paid-for GP services that fall within the scope of NHS-funded primary medical services.”

NHS England said it will consult in 2019 on expanding this ban on private GP services to other providers of mainly NHS services.

The chair of the BMA’s GP committee, Richard Vautrey, said it had been “concerned at the increasingly blurred lines in recent years between NHS and private GP services offered to patients.”

He added: “This change will provide clarity for patients about what treatment is available on the NHS and what they have the option of paying for privately.”

The changes have been announced as part of a five-year contract between NHS England and the BMA, funded by the extra £4.5bn to be invested in community services by 2023 under the NHS’s Long-Term Plan.

Along with the recruitment of 20,000 pharmacists, physios, paramedics, physician associates, and social prescribers, the investment will see improved access to family doctors, expanded services at practices, and longer appointments.

Simon Stevens said: “It represents the biggest boost to general practice in more than 15 years, giving patients more convenient services at their local GP surgery while breaking down the divide between family doctors and community health services.”

This follows news earlier this week that the NHS is to recruit an army of 1,000 social prescribers to help patients deal with “the scourges of modern life,” and news that NHS England is rolling out evening and weekend GP appointments.

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