The Health Secretary, Therese Coffey, recently set out the Government’s new Plan for Patients to improve care for patients this winter.
The Government is launching a £500 million Adult Social Care Discharge Fund to help speed up the safe discharge of patients from hospital this winter to free up beds as well as helping to retain and recruit more care workers.
I know from my regular meetings with Gloucestershire’s NHS leaders that the main reason for ambulance queues in our county is a difficulty discharging people from hospital into social care - see my question to the Health Secretary below.
This follows on from a successful recruitment event at Cheltenham Racecourse which saw hundreds of people secure new jobs in the local care sector. Gloucestershire’s NHS bodies, Gloucestershire County Council and the independent care sector joined forces to run the event which aimed to fill vacancies across the health and care sector locally.
The Plan for Patients also set out interventions to improve access to GP appointments, with the expectation that everyone who needs one should get an appointment at a GP practice within 2 weeks – and that the patients with the most urgent needs should be seen within the same day.
Pharmacies will help ease pressures on GPs and free up time for appointments, by managing and supplying more medicines without a GP prescription, which could free up to two million GP appointments a year, and taking referrals from emergency care for minor illnesses or symptoms, such as a cough, headache or sore throat.
From November, the NHS will accelerate the roll-out of new cloud-based telephone systems to make it easier for patients to get through to their GP, with more phone lines to take calls from patients and provide information about their place in the queue, or direct them to the right place for help.
As part of the extra staff to support GPs to focus on seeing patients, the Government will free up funding for practices to employ more roles, including GP assistants and more advanced nurse practitioners. This supports the Government’s commitment to deliver 26,000 more primary care staff to help improve access to appointments.
This article was first published in The Forester newspaper.