It is hoping they will be the first step to millions more operations and tests at the doctor’s surgery instead of in hospitals.
The DoH pilots will focus on six specialty areas: urology, ENT, dermatology, orthopaedics, gynaecology and general surgery.
It follows January’s primary care White Paper, which announced plans to bring traditional hospital services into community settings.
The 30 pilot schemes are testing how teams of consultants, GPs and nurses can safely and effectively provide minor operations, such as varicose vein and hernia repairs, diagnostic tests such as hearing checks, and step-down care closer to patients’ homes.
In one pilot in Bradford a specially-trained GP is running a menstrual disorders clinic with a gynaecological nurse specialist.
In Truro, Cornwall, two GPs at the Probus Surgery are providing minor and intermediate surgery for hernias and carpal tunnel from the practice.
Dr Raj Dhumale, a qualified general surgeon and GP, has offered minor surgery from his own practice in Norfolk for over a decade and has helped establish the pilot in Cornwall.
Dr Dhumale said ‘not all GPs will borrow from the bank and take a huge risk’, so PCTs need to look at paying notional rent for an operating theatre to establish the service, but added that such schemes would fund themselves by saving on the national tariff.
He said he would like to see the service expand in both a clinical and geographical sense, offering ophthalmology and urology, for example, as widely as possible.
The pilots are being assessed by a steering group which will report back to the DoH early next year about which models to roll out nationwide.
RCGP chairman Professor Mayur Lakhani is one of the advisors on the group and is supporting the move.
‘There is an untapped potential for primary care to deliver more services for patients, so we welcome these demonstration sites. The evaluations will help identify factors that support care close to home,’ he said.