Funding to “end the morning scramble” to book GP appointments at 8am, announced
The BMA’s Welsh GP Committee has agreed changes to the GP contract for 2021/22 with Welsh Government and NHS Wales.
The revised contract changes including a 3% pay rise for GP’s and funding to “end the morning scramble” to book appointments have been announced.
Backed by a £12 million investment, Health Minister Eluned Morgan said today that the revised contract will “make it clear the practice of releasing appointments daily at 8am is no longer acceptable.”
Throughout the pandemic there has been growing pressure on GP practices, who are now offering more telephone and virtual – alongside traditional face to face – appointments to meet the growing demand.
Primary care has also been involved in the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine rollout and more recently the administering of flu jabs.
Instead, the new GP access commitment aims to ensure people are triaged appropriately and if an appointment is needed, people receive one, which is right for their clinical needs.
Where appropriate, people may be signposted to another service – or healthcare professional – who can help or support them.
The new General Medical Services (GMS) contract deal will also include an uplift to pay for GPs and practice staff and extra funding to increase capacity and staffing to help to respond to winter pressures.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “We know GPs and their staff are under significant pressure at the moment. They have played a really important role during the pandemic.
“I am very pleased we have been able to agree a new contract which rewards all staff working in general practice with a pay rise.
“We have also agreed a way forward to improve the appointment system. I want to see an end to the 8am bottleneck where patients have to telephone their practice numerous times, day after day to get an appointment.
“The extra funding announced today will support GP practices to build capacity and implement more efficient booking systems to better manage patient need. I have also announced an extra £2m to help meet the immediate pressures our GPs will face this winter.”
The £4m extra funding will be made available to GPs for the next three financial years to ensure the retention of the additional capacity and in support of the commitment made around access to services.
Ms Morgan added: “As a government we are doing all we can to support our hardworking GPs and I would urge the public to Help Us Help You by considering the other ways they can get medical advice and support this winter.
“The 111 online service and your local pharmacy can provide advice on non-urgent illnesses and medical conditions.”
Nick Wood, executive director of primary, community and mental health services at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, said: “We are pleased this agreement, reached through the tripartite approach to contract negotiations, recognises the hard work and commitment of all staff working within general practice.
“The 3% pay uplift for all GPs and practice staff shows our commitment to supporting the workforce and the sustainability of the services they deliver.
“The wider agreements, including a joint commitment to improve access to services and the investment into staffing capacity, will enable health boards to work closely with general practice to build and improve the service in a way that benefits patients at a time of great challenge.”
Chair of the BMA’s Welsh GP Committee Dr Phil White, said: : “We are pleased that our collaborative working relationship with Welsh Government and NHS Wales has resulted in a contractual agreement which we hope will go some way to support practices under great duress.”
“The contractual arrangements in place for 2021/22 will see GPs and their staff rewarded for their extraordinary efforts during a time of unprecedented demands. The investment will enable the DDRB’s recommendation of a 3% uplift for GPs and their staff to be met.”
“Whilst we are of course pleased that hard working practice staff are finally able to receive their pay uplift, we have stated clearly throughout our negotiations that linking the pay award to contractual change is inappropriate.”
“The investment in capacity will go some way to alleviating current pressures and is a welcome acknowledgement of the deficit GPs face in manpower to deliver the services they would wish to.”
“There are also welcome commitments which will ensure practices have the breathing space to develop and train their teams to better recognise patient needs. GPs are committed to providing the best possible patient experience and want to support staff to be able to deliver high quality services for patients.”
“We welcome Welsh Government’s commitment to step-up public messaging around the blended model of access. GPs and their teams want to provide the very best access they can for patients – often working way beyond their contracts to do so – but it is crucial that patients understand the pressures facing the profession and what the existing workforce can realistically deliver.”
“Put simply, there are not enough GPs working in primary care to manage current levels of demand. What this means, is that patients will be signposted to alternative services if they are deemed more appropriate and may have to wait to see their GP when they need to.”
“We believe that the Welsh Government understand the existential challenge GP practices face, and we are committed to continuing to work together to ensure that patients can access a better resourced General Practice service in the future.”
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