More than 85% of services - including NHS 111 and GP out-of-hours schemes - examined in ‘The state of care in urgent primary care services’ were good or outstanding - despite widespread workforce and commissioning pressures.
A total of 118 urgent primary care services were rated ‘good’, while 10 were found to be ‘outstanding’. Just 16 services were rated 'requires improvement' and only three were classed as ‘inadequate’.
Professor Steve Field, chief inspector of general practice at the CQC said: ‘It is encouraging that the majority of care is rated good or outstanding and important that commissioners and other services recognise the value that urgent care offers as part of integrated care for people in a local area.’
The findings come just over a year after the watchdog found that almost 90% of GP practices in the England were ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.
Room for improvement
The report also showed that effective urgent primary care benefits not only patients, but the healthcare system as a whole - providing much-needed relief for other areas of the NHS at a time of extreme pressure.
‘Well-resourced and integrated urgent care not only provides safe, high quality care to people, but can also ease pressure on other areas of the NHS – particularly emergency departments during the winter period and other times of peak demand. These benefits should not be overlooked,’ Professor Field added.
NHS confederation chief executive Niall Dickson warned further investment was vital despite good ratings overall. He said: ‘This report recognises that most urgent primary care services provide good care but that some areas could improve. We believe we have not invested at the speed or with the urgency required in new models of care in the community.
‘It is shocking that over the past eight years spending on primary care in England has fallen in real terms – indeed from the mid-90s the number of hospital doctors has increased by 72%, whereas in the same period the number of GPs fell by 5%.
He added: ‘Unless we increase investment and reform the services that surround our hospitals, the whole system will fail.’
GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey also voiced concerns around funding and staffing issues. He said: 'While it is positive that these services are improving overall, we are obviously concerned that some are struggling as a result of inadequate capacity in the face of unmanageable demand. It is completely unacceptable if some providers are plugging GP rota gaps by asking nursing and paramedic staff to work outside of their areas of clinical competence.
'These services reduce pressure on other areas of the NHS, such as A&E departments, but they must be properly funded and resourced to stop this being at the expense of patient safety and primary care staff wellbeing.'