A flagship programme to relieve pressured GP practices has released over 192,000 hours of administrative time, NHS England has claimed.
It said the ‘Time for Care’ scheme, launched with the 2016 GP Forward View rescue plan, had also freed up 121,000 hours of clinical time.
The programme, which has been implemented in over a thousand practices, includes offering phone and online consultations, cutting DNAs, improving GPs’ ‘personal productivity’, partnership working and social prescribing among other areas.
However GP leaders were cautious about the findings, saying feedback on the scheme’s success has been ‘variable at best’.
Our sister publication Pulse previously reported that the scheme, which pledged to free up around 10% of GPs’ time through ten ‘high-impact actions’, was given a fund worth £30m – of which £8m was spent in its first year.
Time for Care Programme lead Alison Tongue presented the new data at the NHS England’s Health and Care Innovation Expo last month.
She said: ‘As well as becoming more efficient, we also bring GPs together as groups of practices during the process and they work more collaboratively, which is often new for some practices to step outside of their own practice and work with others.’
BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said that ‘it would logically fall that where investment has been made and care redesigned general practice has benefitted’. But he added that the scheme would ‘require time, funding and support to really make a difference’.
He said: ‘Our own members tell us that success has been variable at best, with more than half of LMCs surveyed this year saying they had not seen any improvement since the launch of the programme.’
An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘We have a rigorous quality assurance process which verifies the practice identified amount of clinical time for GPs and nurses, as well as administrative time, released by the Time for Care programme.’
Co-chiar of the Practice Management Network Steve Williams believes that the programme has worked well for those practice that were able to access the funding and support.
He added: ‘However, sustainability of the benefits achieved so far may not be so easy to maintain as requirements for general practice are inevitably changing and this will include how such services are administered.
‘We do champion the fact that NHS England has recognised the vital role that practice managers and their staff contribute to the effectiveness of primary care delivery and we would welcome continuous investment in this area.’
A version of this story was first published on our sister publication Pulse.