A new five-year contract for general practice across England will see billions of extra investment for improved access to family doctors, expanded services at local practices and longer appointments for patients who need them.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said it is the first major pillar implementing the NHS Long Term Plan, coming just three weeks after the Plan was published.
NHS England will fund 20,000 more staff to help GP practices work together as part of a local ‘primary care network’. The new recruits – pharmacists, physios, paramedics, physician associates and social prescribing support workers – will free up GPs to spend more time with patients who need them, most as well ensuring patients have access to a wide range of services at their local practice.
This builds on the increase of 5,000 extra practice staff working with GPs over the past four years. Core funding increases will also support more practice nurses and GPs, with the number of young doctors choosing to train as GPs now at a record high.
Patient access will continue to improve, including the introduction of digital appointments, backed by a new patient right to web and video consultations by 2021.
This builds on the progress which saw evening and weekend appointments made available across the country in December, three months ahead of schedule, meaning an extra nine million are available at more convenient times.
It means GP practices will be able to drive further action on killer conditions such as cancer and heart disease as well as doing more to tackle obesity, diabetes and mental ill health, and support older people at home and in care homes.
Simon Stevens said: “This five-year deal unarguably represents the biggest boost to primary care in more than fifteen years, giving patients more convenient services at their local GP surgery while breaking down the divide between family doctors and community health services. It provides the practical foundation for the big service improvements in the NHS Long Term Plan. Patients across England – in towns, villages and cities – will all begin to see the benefits, beginning this year. And it allows us to keep all that’s best about British general practice while future-proofing it for the decade ahead.”
The NHS Long Term Plan will see funding for primary medical and community care increase as a share of the NHS budget for the first time in the health service’s 70-year history, with an extra £4.5 billion invested by 2023.
Ian Dodge, National Director for Strategy and Innovation at NHS England, who led discussions with the BMA, said: “General practice is the bedrock of the NHS, and the NHS needs general practice to survive and thrive. Through this comprehensive deal, the BMA and NHS England have sought to solve the big problems that general practice faces, and make it possible to expand services for patients.”
“Having a Long Term Plan has allowed us to come up with a five-year funding deal for primary care, for the first time in NHS history. And it is also a good deal for taxpayers, with money going directly into extra staff and services.”
Dr Nikki Kanani, a GP and NHS England’s Acting Medical Director for Primary Care, added: “This Contract gives five-year funding clarity and certainty for practices while giving patients improved services. Primary medical and community care resources will increase by £4.5 billion by 2023-24 and rise as a share of the overall NHS budget. And this agreement confirms how much of this new investment will stabilise and transform primary care through general practice and the evolution of Primary Care Networks. It’s a game changer and signals the start of a new era for general practice.”