NHS England announced on Friday that it had opened bidding for a share of the £50m Challenge Fund, launched by prime minister David Cameron in the autumn.
At least nine pilots - with at least one in each of the four NHS regions within England - will be funded to find innovative ways to extend patient access.
Pilots will explore changes including:
- Longer opening hours, such as extended weekday opening (e.g. 8am to 8pm) and opening on Saturdays and Sundays.
- Greater flexibility about how people access general practice, for instance the option to visit a number of GP surgery sites in their area.
- Greater use of technology to provide alternatives to face to face consultations e.g. via phone, email, webcam and instant messaging.
- Greater use of patient online services including online systems of patient registration.
- Greater use of telecare and health living apps to help people manage their health without having to visit their GP surgery as often.
- Flexible access through emails, Skype and phone consultations.
- Easier online registration and choice of practice.
Dr Mike Bewick, a Cumbria GP and deputy medical director at NHS England, said GP need to address the call by patients for more convenient services for patients and make better use of technology.
‘The pilots will enable us to roll out best practice more widely across the NHS and will feed into the review of seven-day services. This could be a key moment in the development of the future of GP practices and we want them to come forward and make use of the fund to deliver more personalised, patient-focused services.’
‘General practice has demonstrated that it can come up with innovative ways to deliver better more convenient services. This is the time for GPs to play a much stronger role, as part of a more integrated system of out-of-hospital care. These pilots will allow us to develop some of these new models to see how they work on the ground.’
Practices applying for to the Challenge Fund should submit their expressions of interest by 5pm, Friday 14 February to: firstname.lastname@example.org, copying in their Area Team. For any additional information on the Challenge Fund, applicants should contact their Area Teams.