GPs lead £2m trials of seven-day practice access

GPs in Greater Manchester are set to launch all-week services as NHS bosses meet patient groups to discuss seven-day access.

Prof Keogh: Leads the ‘Seven-Day Service’ programme which met patient organisations
Prof Keogh: Leads the ‘Seven-Day Service’ programme which met patient organisations

More than 30 patient organisations met NHS leaders at a forum of the ‘Seven-Day Service’ programme led by medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh.

Chairman of the event, Neil Betteridge, patient and public adviser on the enhanced recovery partnership, said: ‘The changing expectations of patients make it all the more sensible to involve patients in all the important conversations.’

Among issues raised by patients, according to NHS England, were how to fund extended access and whether GPs were a ‘barrier to seven-day services’.

But in north west England, GPs are driving the launch of a seven-day access pilot programme.

Proposals by GP groups in Greater Manchester to develop integrated care models have been awarded funding by the NHS England area team of around £2m.  

One of the winning bids, by GPs in Middleton in Rochdale, will open access until 9.30pm Monday to Friday and at weekends.

GP Dr Mohammad Jiva, who leads the half a million pound proposal, said: ‘We know the NHS is becoming a patient demand-led service. But if they are not getting access to primary care they are ending up at A&E, costing local commissioners a lot of money that should be invested in primary care services.’  

The six-month pilot would see one practice in the town open for the extended hours with services provided by a contractor. Dr Jiva said this was not about creating more core work for GPs.

‘There is some concern about GPs being cornered into doing this as part of our core work. But this is new money. And if we can show this works and provides better demand management in the community, and keeps patients out of A&E, then money currently absorbed by secondary care can be used in the community to keep this kind of service running.’

Other elements of the bid include patient education, web-based GP consultations, a web forum for healthcare professionals to share advice on services, a care diary software programme for A&E staff to book primary care appointments for patients, and an NHS Tracker.

Dr Jiva said the Tracker software will alert GPs when their patients enter A&E and allow them be discharged early into the community under GP supervision.

‘Things like a chest infection where someone’s admitted for a week, but the last two days are just observation, we will allow that person to be discharged to our care. It gets away from estates problems with all the overheads. Our ‘virtual beds’ will be in the patients’ own homes. So the service comes to them for those two days.’

Greater Manchester Area Team said it had invited applications for the development of demonstrator communities to focus on integrated care proposals linking primary, community and social care services.

The six ‘demonstrator communities’ selected were:

  • Bolton CCG; Care Homes and GP Access
  • Bury GP Federation; A Healthier Radcliffe,
  • Central Manchester CCG; Making a difference for our whole community
  • Heywood (Federation); Pilot in Integrated Care
  • Middleton GP Practices; Organisations working in partnership
  • Stockport CCG; Development of an Integrated Locality Hub

The six project teams are now waiting to hear which parts of their proposals will receive funding from the area team.

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