The 20 Challenge Fund pilots have successfully initiated a culture change in primary care, from independent small businesses to collaborated networks, a review on the pilots revealed.
NHS England’s first evaluation report on the Challenge Fund pilots said that cultural change is “not easy to achieve” and that “the injection of investment into primary care has had a catalytic effect”.
This has encouraged “practices to move away from operating as independent small businesses and, instead, work collectively,” the report read.
The Prime Minister David Cameron announced the £50 million Challange Fund in October 2013, in order to improve access to general practice and find innovative ways of providing primary care.
The report on the fund also found that there is “very low” uptake of Sunday GP appointments, however there is “evident demand” for Saturday (particularly morning) appointments and extended mid-week hours.
It read: “Based on the evidence on current provision and utilisation of extended hours it is suggested that 41-51 total extended hours per week are required per 100,000 registered population in order to meet the levels of demand experienced in these pilots; of these 30-37 hours should be GP hours.
“Given reported low utilisation on Sundays in most locations, additional hours are most likely to be well utilised if provided during the week or on Saturdays (particularly Saturday mornings).”
In terms of technology, telephone consultations were shown to be cost effective due to the GP time savings that are being achieved, but other non-traditional modes of contact (for example video or e-consultations) “have yet to prove any significant benefits and have had low patient take-up; this will continue to be monitored.
“…Ultimately the sustainability of specific pilot initiatives is largely reliant on CCG funding going forward. It will be down to their discretion to continue with initiatives that have been shown to be locally popular and have demonstrated positive results,” the report concluded.