On 22 September 2022 Therese Coffey, the newly appointed Health and Social Care Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister, will set out the Government’s new NHS winter plan (“The Plan”). The Department of Health and Social Care (“DHSC”) Plan will aim to ensure patients can receive easier access to NHS and social care this winter and the next.
What will The Plan do?
Thérèse Coffey is expected to outline measures of The Plan and provide detail on the level of priority for each measure. The Plan will involve further details on how individuals can get greater access to ambulances, doctors, and dentists. One expected measure is to improve access to general practice to ensure patients who need an appointment can get one within two weeks, with urgent patient needs seen on the same day. However, as part of The Plan, the DHSC will call on members of the public to do their bit as well, in what is being described as a “national endeavour” to support both the NHS and social care. This will include a greater push for volunteering across the NHS and social care. The Plan will include changing funding rules which will enable recruitment of extra support staff, enabling GPs to focus on treating patients, which aims to free up over one million appointments per year. Furthermore, new state-of-the-art telephone systems are set to be introduced, to enable patients to contact their GP surgeries and arrange appointments easier. The Plan also aims to produce a level of transparency so, for the first time ever, appointment data will be published at practice level. Additionally, to support GPs, the Government will free up funding for practices to employ more roles which will include GP assistants and more advanced nurse practitioners. This will support the Government’s commitment to deliver 26,000 more primary care staff to help achieve greater access to appointments.
Furthermore, pharmacies will be expected to ease pressure on GPs and free up time for appointments by managing and supplying routine medicines such as contraception without a GP prescription. This aims to free up two million general practice appointments a year, and will include taking referrals from emergency care for minor illnesses with low risk symptoms such as a cough, headache or a sore throat.
What is being said?
Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said:
“I know how much patients value timely, convenient access to GPs and primary care, the front door to the NHS, which is why we are continuing to drive improvements, including new roles to better meet patients’ needs and new tech to make contacting your local surgery easier. We will work with the government so we can support NHS staff to deliver these new ambitions for patients, underpinned by the development of a long term workforce plan.”