The GP Stories you almost missed – 7 day access, 5000 GPs, practice closures
The Government’s flagship 7 day access policy is in the news once again with a mixed response as to its efficacy. Official evaluation showed that A&E admissions were reduced by 3% and said the scheme was set to be extended. However, CCG leaders in Yorkshire have scrapped the pilot scheme citing poor take-up of weekend appointments as one of the main reasons for abandoning the scheme. A joint report by the Patients Association and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine has found that same-day GP appointments do not stop patients from choosing to attend A&E instead. Meanwhile, according to research by the financial regulator for the NHS in England, a third of patients find it difficult to get an appointment. Although a smaller YouGov poll found apparent public support for 7 day access.
One of the biggest stories this month was Jeremy Hunt’s ‘New Deal’ for GP which has prompted a backlash from GPs and a petition with nearly 3000 signatures. Remarkably, Mr Hunt has also called for GPs to move away from the mentality of clocking off at 7pm.
Staffing in General Practice is still a cause for concern with promises of 5,000 more GPs and 5,000 support staff including 1,000 physician associates by 2020. Although the Government has since distanced itself from the pledge for 5,000 extra GPs. In Leicester, the CCG is spending £600,000 to bring over 10 US-trained Physician Associates to work in local practices. Recruiters have said more foreign GPs are essential in order to meet this target. Whilst regulations were changed this year to allow GP training applicants who failed the Stage 2 exam in the first round to re-apply in the second round. The Welsh Government is investing £34million into GP recruitment whilst the Scottish Government has announced that a new £50million fund for GP recruitment and retention is to be spread over 3 years, replacing a one year £40million fund.
Also in the news has been practice closures. One doctor explains why she and her colleague were forced to resign from their practice after a replacement for the retiring partners could not be found. A practice in Brighton was closed with no warning, following a CQC inspection, leaving nearly 10,000 patients to use local walk-in facilities. The entire patient list was subsequently transfered to one neighbouring practice. In Essex, a third sector provider has been commissioned by NHS ENgland to take on an APMS contract for 12 months after all partners at the GP practice resigned. Meanwhile a practice in London has been saved from closure by local campaigners who persuaded NHS England to use locums to keep the practice open whilst looking for a new provider to run the practice. Jeremy Hunt has agreed to shadow a GP at a practice in Tower Hamlets, but Limehouse Practice is facing a funding crisis and may close before he gets there.
The RCGP has called for an immediate halt to CQC inspections as it emerges that nearly half of GP practices spend more than 20 staff hours to prepare for them.
A pilot scheme in Glasgow is to offer 30 minute appointments to its most vulnerable patients with researchers from the University of Glasgow measuring the impact on hospital admissions.
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