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Practice appointment data to be published on 24 November

by Costanza Potter
7 November 2022

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The former health secretary’s plans to publish practice-level appointment data from this month are to go ahead under her successor.

An NHS England GP bulletin revealed that this will take place on 24 November.

In September, former health secretary Dr Thérèse Coffey revealed her ‘plan for patients’, which included two-week GP appointment targets and the new publication of practice-level appointment data in a bid to improve access to GP practices.

But a political reshuffle following the resignation of Prime Minister Liz Truss and her replacement with Rishi Sunak saw Steve Barclay reappointed as health secretary last week.

It remained unclear whether Dr Coffey’s plans would be shelved now that a new health secretary is in post, but a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that the measures will go ahead as planned.

They said that the DHSC will publish easy-to-use appointment data for each practice in England from this month. The data will include how many appointments each GP practice is offering and appointment waiting times.

An NHS England email bulletin sent to practices last week revealed that ‘on 24 November, NHS Digital intends to publish experimental practice level data as laid out’ in the ‘plan for patients’.

It added: ‘This data will be added to the monthly appointments in general practice publication using the data collected regularly from GP system suppliers. If practices want to review their data ahead of the release, they can access it via their practice-level dashboard.’

Dr Coffey had previously indicated that the only repercussion for practices that do not meet the expectations would be the potential of patients switching GP.

The DHSC spokesperson also indicated that the ‘expectation’ set by Dr Coffey that GP practices offer non-urgent appointments to patients within two weeks, as well as same-day urgent appointments, also remains in place.

NHS England has said that while it is ‘reasonable’ for patients to expect to see a GP within two weeks, delivering this is currently impossible.

The DHSC spokesperson said: ‘We are incredibly grateful to GPs and their staff, whose hard work ensured that over 29 million appointments were carried out in September – with over two-thirds of those face to face, up from August and the same month last year.

‘We have set an expectation that everyone who needs an appointment within two weeks can get one, with urgent cases seen the same day. To support this, there are record numbers of GPs in training and we are investing at least £1.5 billion to create 50 million more appointments a year by 2024.’

They stressed that guidance is clear that GP practices must provide face-to-face appointments alongside remote consultations.

And they added that the Government has taken actions to improve GP access including recruiting more support staff, changing pension rules to retain more senior staff, empowering pharmacists to play a bigger role in treating patients and rolling out telephone systems that make it easier to get through to surgeries.

No changes in policy have been announced, so all previous policies will continue unless stated otherwise, they said. 

Read more about the upcoming data changes involving general practice here.

A version of this story was first published on our sister title Pulse.