PATIENTS will no longer be fobbed off by family doctors and asked to "call back later" when asking for an appointment, as part of a new GP contract.
Instead, surgeries which cannot offer an appointment will be obliged to provide people with assessment their and then or signpost them to an appropriate medical service.
It's not clear what is meant by as "appropriate service" but GP practices can already refer patients for a same-day consultation with a community pharmacist.
NHS England hopes the change will "ensure consistency in the access patients can expect".
However, health leaders have warned the new 2023/24 contract will lead to more GPs leaving the profession and more patients waiting longer for care.
Dr Kieran Sharrock, acting chairman of the general practitioners committee in England, said in a statement on Monday that ministers have focused on “eking out” more from practices without providing the necessary resources.
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He said: “Without investment to do more, practices have to free up resources from elsewhere. This hasn’t been properly considered, ramping up GP workload, and without the support needed, will lead to more GPs leaving the profession.
“Ultimately, it’s our patients who suffer most, and this means more of them will be left waiting longer for the care they desperately need.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We’re committed to supporting GPs and are incredibly grateful for the work they do.
“The updated terms of the contract first agreed with the British Medical Association in 2019 will ensure patients receive better care and get to see their GP quicker – allowing practices to employ more highly skilled and experienced nurses and mental health practitioners."
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NHS England did not provide any comment regarding the imposed contract.
It comes as new figures reveal that patients are facing a postcode lottery in seeing their GP.
Family doctor numbers fell nearly 3,000 while patient lists jumped from 58 million to 62 million between 2016-22.
The worst-hit area is Blackburn with Darwen, Lancs — where GPs have fallen from 74 to 63, and patients are up to 182,406, new data from the Lib Dems revealed.
A similar pattern can be seen across other areas of the country, with 2,821 patients per GP in Portsmouth, 2,805 patients per doctor in Hull, and 2,805 per practitioner in Oldham.
Daisy Cooper, for the Lib Dems plus Labour’s Wes Streeting said patients were finding it impossible to get an appointment.
Ms Cooper said: “Communities across the country are seeing ever falling numbers of GPs treating ever growing numbers of patients, in a stark postcode lottery.”
Separate data found more than one in four adults are failing to get an in-person consultation with their GP in the last 12 months.
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