Nearly 4m GP appointments could be freed up by 2022 under newly extended NHS pilot scheme

NHS England has extended a scheme which has freed up half a million hours for patients in the last year and could now see four million appointments saved by 2022.

The Time for Care scheme encourages practices to try innovations to cut bureaucracy and has been piloted at certain cites since 2016, but will now be spread to three-quarters of GP practices by 2022.

In 2018, the scheme freed up 205,000 hours, the equivalent to 1.2m GP appointments, and NHS England said that close to £40m in the time was saved, as well as over 300,000 administrative hours.

If the same equivalent of clinical hours are saved over the next three years, it would represent around 3.7 million GP appointments saved or around £110m saved.

Nikita Kanani, NHS England’s medical director for primary care and a south-east London GP, said: “This 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, as part of our Long-Term Plan for the health service.

“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.”

The scheme works by directing patients to other health care experts, designing more efficient prescribing systems so patients can request online, and conducting telephone appointments with GPs.

Time for Care is being funded through NHS England’s £30m GP Forward View programme.

Helen Ebbs, a GP at Pickering Medical Practice which has been a part of the scheme, said it had had a “great impact on patients, me, the practice, my role in the CCG and federation.”

“It’s energised my enthusiasm in a time of great pressure and given me something to enjoy. There’s been lots of benefits for my practice and patients, and I am really proud of the changes we’ve made.”

The BMA’s GP Committee chair, Richard Vautrey, said the scheme was “welcome” but “much more needs to be done to reduce the day-to-day pressures on practices so that we can make general practice a positive environment for all staff to work in.”



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