The Daily Telegraph

You’ll see your GP within two weeks, promises Coffey

- By Laura Donnelly HEALTH EDITOR and Ben Butcher

GPS WILL be told to give an appointmen­t to every patient who wants one within two weeks, with same-day slots for the most urgent cases, under pledges from Thérèse Coffey, the Health Secretary.

The new “plan for patients” will also name and shame practices with the longest waits, in an effort to drive up performanc­e, with a war on red tape to free up doctors to see patients.

Ms Coffey, a close ally of Liz Truss, the Prime Minister, will today promise to be a “champion” for patients in a package that aims to enable an extra three million appointmen­ts a year.

But GP leaders last night accused her of “lumbering a struggling service with more expectatio­ns, without a plan as to how to deliver them”.

The pledges include a promise to recruit more support staff and to improve telephone systems, with record numbers of patients now struggling to get through, even on the phone.

Official monthly figures show that in July around 3.9 million people – one in seven patients – faced waits of at least two weeks to see a GP. This was a rise from 3.1 million in the same month in 2021, when it represente­d 12 per cent of all patients, and 1.1 million in July 2020, when it was 6 per cent of those waiting.

The latest move comes as public satisfacti­on with GP services is at its lowest on record and as a GP survey earlier this

year found that 47 per cent of people struggled to get through to someone at their surgery.

The changes to telephone systems aim to help ease the 8am scramble for appointmen­ts, tell patients how long they will have to wait for a response, and stop people being cut off.

Today Ms Coffey will set out details of the new plan in the Commons as part of efforts to avert an NHS winter crisis, and reduce pressures on hospitals and ambulance services.

The changes will also mean more medicines – including contracept­ion – being supplied without a prescripti­on, allowing patients to obtain it directly from pharmacies.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Hunt, the former Health Secretary, urges his successor not to sacrifice her “natural instinct to be a reformer” with the political imperative to “keep the NHS quiet ahead of an election” – saying he faced such instructio­ns himself.

Ms Coffey is also expected to expand on government plans to divert billions of pounds to social care, in order to reduce the number of patients stuck in hospitals for want of care at home.

The Health Secretary is due to say: “I will put a laser-like focus on the needs of patients, being a champion for them on issues that affect them most.”

Prof Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPS, last night said it was “a shame” that Ms Coffey had not asked the College for its views.

“Lumbering a struggling service with more expectatio­ns, without a plan as to how to deliver them, will only serve to add to the intense workload and workforce pressures GPS and our teams are facing, whilst having minimal impact on the care our patients receive,” he said.

Ministers will promise more informatio­n for patients, including for the first

‘I’ll put a laser-like focus on the needs of patients, being a champion for them on issues that affect them most’

time data comparing waiting times at surgeries, allowing patients to register with practices with the shortest waits.

Also promised is the recruitmen­t of more support staff so GPS can focus on treating patients, freeing up around one million appointmen­ts per year. The measures to change medication protocols, so that more medicines become available over the counter from pharmacies, should free up two million general practice appointmen­ts a year.

Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said NHS staff were “working incredibly hard to deliver record numbers of GP appointmen­ts for patients, with 11 million more so far this year than in the same period last year”.

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