NHS England urges GPs to innovate in access pilot bids

Practices bidding for funding for extended access pilots must do more than just open from 8am to 8pm, NHS England's deputy medical director has said.

NHS England: practices must innovate

Speaking to GP, Dr Mike Bewick said bids must show innovation and 'added value' in order to win a share of the £50m Challenge Fund launched by the prime minister in the autumn.

The scheme, which opened for bids today, will launch at least nine pilots - with at least one in each of the four NHS regions within England - to find innovative ways to extend patient access.

Dr Bewick, who was a GP in Cumbria, said bidders should consider how they would network with neighbouring practices and integrate with secondary care to provide additional services for patients outside normal hours.

Practices should consider how the scheme improves the quality of care, particularly around safety, he said. ‘So if they were looking at early intervention with frail, elderly patients in their homes or in care homes, that will be an area we’d be interested to learn about.’

‘Or, looking at interventions with patients with care homes where at weekends there is not the same level of care as on the weekdays, and doing some form of surveillance of those.’

Dr Bewick said while there were concerns from GPC over funding beyond the pilots, but that this programme was about experimenting to finding out what could be done.

‘We want to see what will be best value, not just in monetary terms, but what’s best for patients. We are not trying to replicate five days into seven days, we are looking at how we distribute care more sensibly across seven days.’

People’s lives had changed, he said, so it was right to find out how primary care could innovate to meet some of the changing demands.

‘We can't do everything patients always want in terms of access, but we can come up with novel ways including use of technology, and utilising the wider team, not just within primary care, but in social care and extending into the secondary care sector in co-operative ventures,' he added.

‘You won’t get the prize just by saying you are opening 8am to 8pm. It has to be added value.’

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