Under the proposals, all 53.9 million people in England will have a GP personally dedicated to managing their specific health and mental care needs. Initially, these changes were introduced last year just for patients over the age of 75.
The new contract changes, which were agreed between the British Medical Association’s general practice committee, NHS England and the Department of Health, are intended to strengthen the relationship that patients have with their GPs. Supporters argue that this will boost the services offered by general practices and ensure that patients receive good quality care as and when they need it.
The theory goes that personalised care will build a stronger relationship between doctors and their patients because GPs will gain a better understanding of each person’s medical history. From this, doctors will be able to make more informed recommendations for the delivery of care. Patients will feel that they can trust their GP and will be confident in knowing that their needs are understood. If, for example, a patient does not understand a diagnosis, they will feel more comfortable speaking to a GP with whom they have built a relationship.
Prime Minister David Cameron has also announced further changes aimed at helping families fit GP appointments into their busy lives. In a bold move, the government is extending the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund by a further 100 million to provide more flexible GP appointments.
According to the Department of Health, 7.5 million patients have benefitted from the first GP access pilot and there are already more than 1,100 practices in the scheme. The newly announced second phase will target places where access to appointments is the most limited.
Practices can bid for funding by suggesting new ways of working that will improve access to their care services. Some practices on the scheme have introduced more flexible appointments by extending opening hours from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week. Other practices are encouraging patients to receive consultations via email, over the phone or via Skype calls.
These changes represent a radical shift in how the NHS operates.
As the general election draws closer, we are seeing the major political parties pledge to improve the NHS. At the Conservative Party Conference, David Cameron gave a very emotional speech about the important role that the NHS has played in his own family life. And at the Labour Party Conference, leader of the opposition Ed Miliband promised a 2.5 million ‘time to care’ fund capable of supporting an extra 20,000 nurses and 8,000 GPs by 2020.
At Fletchers Solicitors, we have always acknowledged the vital service that the NHS delivers to its patients. Unfortunately, the NHS at present is clearly failing too many people – we see cases day in, day out of patients that have experienced medical negligence at the hands of underperforming doctors and nurses. Both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party seem to have recognised that fundamental change is needed.
It’s impossible to know who will win the next election. But whichever party gains power, we just hope they live up to their promises of making a better NHS for everyone.