Responding to NHS England and NHS Improvement’s announcement of a plan to improve access to GP appointments and to support GPs, Dr Pramit Patel, GP and Chair of the NHS Confederation's PCN Network, said:
“This additional investment and support is welcome recognition of the monumental pressure that primary care is under. Health leaders across primary care will look at all opportunities to use the additional funding in the most effective way for patients and the workforce.
“Face-to-face consultations have remained a core feature across primary care services throughout the pandemic and extending access by expanding remote appointments have enabled more patients to be seen.
"But we should be under no illusion as to how easy it will be to fix this problem without additional workforce. That is neither a short term problem nor a short term fix.
“We need to really look at how we support primary care teams to focus on patient care and not bureaucracy, at the same time as identifying solutions that make more cost-effective use of workforce by delivery of at-scale solutions through PCNs and GP Federations across place and systems."
Also responding to the announced plan, Dr Graham Jackson, Chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners, which is part of the NHS Confederation, said:
“This additional investment in primary care services is welcomed at a time when the sector is under incredible pressure, and with winter just on the horizon bringing additional challenges. However, GP staff shortages cannot be resolved quickly.
“Commissioners need to use the money to invest in place and locality-based urgent care hubs to help free up the time for primary care to focus on long-term care and complex care needs. This would help to reduce some of the pressure.
“Services need to work together to develop integrated ways of reducing the current pressure on primary care, including ways to better support those who are currently on waiting lists, to look after their health while waiting.
“Investing in services that can ease the pressure quickly, is a welcome starting point but won’t solve some of the longer-term workforce challenges.”