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NHS England sets out details of GP practice-level ‘access improvement programme’

by Costanza Pearce
1 November 2021

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NHS England has revealed further details of the ‘intensive’ access support programme that will be offered to the worst-performing GP practices.

As part of the GP access plan announced earlier this month, ICSs must identify and submit a list of the 20% of practices in their area with the lowest levels of face-to-face appointments by 28 October to face ‘immediate’ action.

The plan said that the 200 GP practices with the worst access will face an ‘intensive and accelerated’ programme to ‘help them reduce waits’ and ‘increase the number of appointments offered each day’, including face-to-face appointments.

It comes after NHS England confirmed that some practices needing access ‘support’ will not be eligible for the GP winter access funding.

New NHS England guidance sent to systems this week and seen by Pulse said that support from the intensive ‘access improvement programme’ (AIP) will last approximately 24 weeks.

It said that the AIP would create a ‘practice-level improvement plan’ with ‘evidence-based interventions’ to help practices achieve ‘at least’ pre-pandemic activity levels, excluding Covid vaccinations.

The plan will also aim to increase overall appointment levels, as well as the proportion of face-to-face appointments delivered by GPs, it added.

It said: ‘Development advisers will bring to bear the combined expertise and resources of NHSE/I’s primary care improvement, primary care workforce, digital-first primary care and NHSX teams in assembling tailored practice support to accelerate improvement’.

These ‘development advisers’ will have a ‘rapid high-level discussion’ with the primary care network (PCN) clinical director and a nominated practice lead ‘where asked’ to ‘confirm practice suitability and readiness’ for the intensive programme, it added.

They will set out ‘expectations for practice participation including time inputs and reporting requirements’ and this will ‘require rapid turnaround to meet the national timescales’, the guidance said.

Practices will need to confirm their ‘commitment’ to the programme via a ‘simple agreement’ document, it added.

The guidance also confirmed that practices identified for the AIP may also be able to access support via the £250 winter access fund.

However, it said that some of the worst-performing practices needing access ‘support’ will not be eligible for the GP winter access funding.

A version of this story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.