Region’s NHS gets none of £50m pot to improve GP access

All of West Suffolk's GP surgeries would have benefitted from the �50 million GP Access Fund had the CCG been successful in it's application
All of West Suffolk's GP surgeries would have benefitted from the �50 million GP Access Fund had the CCG been successful in it's application

A central Government injection of £50 million to improve GP access will not benefit any surgeries in all of East Anglia.

Some 1,147 GP surgeries are set to benefit from the GP Access Fund, though the West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) missed out as Government favoured bids which included Saturday and Sunday openings.

Lois Wreathall, head of practice support at the CCG

Lois Wreathall, head of practice support at the CCG

The West Suffolk CCG preferred to focus on patient continuity in care rather than seeing different GPs who are more readily available, and opening on weekends would have been problematic as the funds on offer were only for a year.

West Suffolk’s 25 GP practices had agreed on the bid that would benefit all of the area’s 240,621 people, which would have freed up appointments through:

– enabling people to e-mail their GP or talk to them on Skype for some consultations

– having electronic prescriptions and sprucing up websites so people can book appointments online

– helping people manage conditions in their own homes through innovations such as telecare

– having wifi at all surgeries, for staff and patients, enabling patients to download apps and information while there

Lois Wreathall, head of practice support at the CCG, said: “There’s an argument over what people want from their GP – continuity of care or to see any GP.

“Being open on weekends would have meant seeing different GPs and a lot felt the interactions they have are successful because they know the patient.

“Some people who aren’t often ill just want to see a doctor though those with long term conditions and the elderly want to see their own doctor, so we know there are these two patient groups.

“It’s a shame not to get the funding but they [Government] were committed to the idea of Saturday and Sunday openings.

“If the pilot sites work then the NHS will request the extra funding if it proves to solve the access issue, so now we wait to see if they deliver patient satisfaction.”

The West Suffolk CCG’s bid had been split into different sections, which it will now look to secure funding to provide them separately.

A NHS England spokesperson said: “We received over 250 expressions of interest (EOI) from practices and groups of practices across England.

“We used the seven key criteria for assessing EOI that were published last December, as part of the EOI process.

“These are – public and patient engagement, sustainability, scale and ambition, leadership and commitment, link to local strategy, capacity for rapid implementation and robust plans for monitoring and evaluation.

“NHS England’s area teams reviewed the EOIs and prioritised them against the Challenge Fund criteria and made recommendations to a national assessment panel that included patient representatives and senior representatives from NHS England, the Department of Health and a CCG.

“Bids from national organisations or from organisations that crossed geographical boundaries, were reviewed nationally.

“We are pleased that the PM Challenge Fund attracted so much interest from practices who wanted to pilot new ways of delivering services and extend patient access.

“Whilst only a small number of sites can be awarded a place on the Challenge Fund programme, NHS England wishes to build on the momentum created by the bid process.

“Alongside the pilots, we are looking to establish a number of ‘associate networks’ to the Challenge Fund to link them with a number of the other innovative bids within their region and nationally, to share learning.

“All practices will have the chance to benefit from guidance being developed through the Challenge Fund programme including – work to help further reduce bureaucracy and identify new ways of shaping demand on general practice services and working at greater scale in networks and federations.

“We are also exploring the potential to create some kind of innovation hub to share great ideas across the general practice communities.”

For all the latest news see tomorrow’s (Thursday, April 24) Echo.