GP appointments: New health secretary makes same-day pledge – BBC

By Nick Triggle
Health correspondent

The government is promising to improve access to GPs, including same-day appointments for those that need them, as part of a new plan in England.
Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey will make the pledge as she unveils her NHS plan for this winter and next.
GPs will be able to take on extra staff, including senior nurses, while pharmacists will be asked to take on more work to free up appointments.
But GP leaders said the announcement would have a "minimal impact".
It comes amid declining satisfaction with access to GPs.
The most recent GP survey showed just over half of patients rated their experience as good.
Ms Coffey is due to announce the plan, which will also cover hospital services, in the House of Commons, on Thursday.
She is expected to say: "I will put a laser-like focus on the needs of patients, making their priorities my priorities and being a champion for them on issues that affect them most."
Alongside same-day appointments when needed, Ms Coffey will promise no-one will have to wait more than two weeks for a routine appointment – currently one in five appointments take longer.
The promises on waiting times are not official targets, but Ms Coffey said they should be seen as clear expectations of what patients should be entitled to.
Gareth Dixon, 40, from Warrington, is one of those who has struggled to get to see a GP.
Earlier this year he was suffering with chest pain, but could not get a face-to-face appointment.
Eventually he gave up trying and instead went to A&E.
But once there he faced a 15-hour wait to be seen. He was later diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia.
He says he is now receiving "superb care".
But he adds: "It was such a struggle – I had to push and push to be seen. It was a horrible experience."
Share your experiences of getting a GP appointment.
Key to improving access will be the recruitment of extra staff.
And having struggled to recruit GPs in recent years, the government is instead changing the funding rules to allow practices to take on more senior nurses and GP assistants, the equivalent of health-care assistants in hospitals.
Until now, much of the extra money available to general practice for new staff has had to be spent on non-nurse staff such as physiotherapists and pharmacists.
Pharmacists are also being given more powers to dispense medications, such as contraception, as well as taking on referrals from A&E for minor illnesses such as coughs and headaches.
Ministers hope these measures will free up about three million appointments a year – 1% of the total.
Our Plan for Patients will also detail the support the hospital system will receive for ambulances and A&E as well as to tackle the backlog in routine treatments.
Prof Martin Marshall, of the Royal College of GPs, said the announcement on GPs did not amount to a proper plan and would have a "minimal impact", accusing ministers of "lumbering a struggling service with more expectations" without the means to achieve them.
"GPs share patients' frustrations when we cannot deliver the care we want to deliver in a timely way," he said.
"But we are caring for an increasing number of patients, with increasingly complex health needs and carrying out more consultations with fewer qualified, full-time GPs."
Labour shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: "The Conservatives have failed to provide the doctors and nurses needed to treat patients on time – and patients are paying the price in record long waiting times.
"Unless the government bring forward a plan for the NHS staffing crisis , they don't have a plan for the NHS."
He also pointed out that the government had scrapped a target introduced by Labour to guarantee patients appointments within 48 hours.
Although one of the main reasons that was dropped was that it meant patients could not book routine appointments in advance because GPs had to keep all their available slots to hit the target.
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