Health Minister Eluned Morgan today (1 December) announced new changes to the GP contract to help to improve access to appointments.
The changes, which are backed by £12m of extra investment, will end the morning scramble to book an appointment. The revised contract will make it clear the practice of releasing appointments daily at 8am is no longer acceptable.
Instead, the new GP access commitment will help ensure people are triaged appropriately and if an appointment is needed, people receive one, which is right for their clinical needs.
Where appropriate, people may be signposted to another service – or healthcare professional – who can help or support them.
The new General Medical Services (GMS) contract deal will also include an uplift to pay for GPs and practice staff and extra funding to increase capacity and staffing to help to respond to winter pressures.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said:
We know GPs and their staff are under significant pressure at the moment. They have played a really important role during the pandemic.
I am very pleased we have been able to agree a new contract which rewards all staff working in general practice with a pay rise.
We have also agreed a way forward to improve the appointment system. I want to see an end to the 8am bottleneck where patients have to telephone their practice numerous times, day after day to get an appointment.
The extra funding announced today will support GP practices to build capacity and implement more efficient booking systems to better manage patient need. I have also announced an extra £2m to help meet the immediate pressures our GPs will face this winter.
The £4m extra funding will be made available to GPs for the next three financial years to ensure the retention of the additional capacity and in support of the commitment made around access to services.
Ms Morgan added:
As a government we are doing all we can to support our hardworking GPs and I would urge the public to Help Us Help You by considering the other ways they can get medical advice and support this winter. The 111 online service and your local pharmacy can provide advice on non-urgent illnesses and medical conditions.
Nick Wood, executive director of primary, community and mental health services at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, said:
We are pleased this agreement, reached through the tripartite approach to contract negotiations, recognises the hard work and commitment of all staff working within general practice.
The 3% pay uplift for all GPs and practice staff shows our commitment to supporting the workforce and the sustainability of the services they deliver.
The wider agreements, including a joint commitment to improve access to services and the investment into staffing capacity, will enable health boards to work closely with general practice to build and improve the service in a way that benefits patients at a time of great challenge.
Dr Phil White, chair of GPC Wales said:
We are pleased that our collaborative working relationship with Welsh Government and NHS Wales has resulted in a contractual agreement which we hope will go some way to support practices under great duress.
We believe that the Welsh Government understand the existential challenge GP practices face, and we are committed to continuing to work together to ensure that patients can access a better resourced general practice service in the future.