Patients across England are set to benefit from better access to GPs as the government announces that more than 1,000 practices are set to receive a digital upgrade package.
GP practices will be switching to digital phonelines in a move that will allow health professionals to inform patients how their call will be handled on the day, rather than being told to call back later.
The upgrades will see an end to the engaged tone and enable care navigators to direct calls to the most relevant healthcare professional.
If urgent, patients will get assessed and be given an appointment on the same day; if non-urgent, patients will either be offered an appointment within the following two weeks, or referred to NHS 111 or a local pharmacy.
ICYMI: Over 1,000 general practices have signed up for new digital technology to tackle the 8am rush and make it easier to get an appointment.— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) August 21, 2023
We're backing upgrades to phone and online systems with £240 million as part of the Primary Care Recovery Plan.https://t.co/PA3OTXOabR pic.twitter.com/KmhAmiRwzd
The Department of Health and Social Care is expecting every GP practice in the country to have the new system in place by the end of next March.
The health secretary, Steve Barclay, commented: “I’m delighted that over one thousand general practice surgeries will soon benefit from high tech designed to make booking an appointment as easy as possible for patients for years to come.”
On average, GP practices using older equipment will receive £60,000 each to modernise working processes.
The government says that effective care navigation can help direct 40% of requests more efficiently – around 6,500 care navigator training places have already been funded which is the equivalent of one staff member per practice.
This comes as the government also looks to make more use of pharmacy and dental professionals.
Two separate consultations will be launched: one looking at how pharmacy technicians can supply and administer medicines, and another assessing how dental hygienists and therapists can further support patients.
Health minister, Neil O’Brien, added: “We want to make sure we are making the best use of skilled professionals such as dental hygienists and pharmacy technicians while at the same time freeing up dentists and pharmacists to carry out vital services. The reforms we propose today are crucial in achieving this.”
He continued: “We have so much skill and experience within our surgeries and pharmacies and by better using technology, transferring services and cutting bureaucracy we will have a more efficient and effective service.”
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