GP surgeries which fail to provide face-to-face appointments will soon be named and shamed in new league tables.
Patients will also be able to demand in person appointments as millions of pounds are ploughed into the NHS to improve access to GPs.
But those that fail to give an “appropriate” level of face-to-face contact will not be eligible for new government funding.
In other changes, patients will be able to rate their GP practice’s performance via text message.
The measures will also see GPs freed from some red tape and other parts of the NHS will be called upon to help with some care – such as other healthcare workers being given new powers to provide patients with fit to work notes or DVLA checks.
NHS England said the measures, including a £250 million winter access fund, will allow GP practices to improve availability and increase the number of face-to-face appointments and same-day care.
The NHS cash injection was announced on Tuesday amid rising anger that people can’t get in-person appointments.
The move will also allow surgeries to pay locum doctors, physiotherapists and specialists to come in and help cut waiting times.
NHS CEO Amanda Pritchard said: “Improving access to high quality general practice is essential for our patients.
“NHS England is taking both urgent and longer term action to back GPs and their teams with additional investment and support.”
GP practices were told to “respect preferences for face-to-face care” and local health system will be given more freedom to determine how to tackle the problem of access.
Among other measures is an “increase in oversight”, funding to upgrade GP telephone lines, the publishing of GP appointment data in Spring, and support for those who don’t meet “appropriate levels” of face-to-face meetings.
It comes as many in England still don’t have access to face-to-face appointments, despite lockdown having ended in August.
In July, just 57 per cent — or 14.6million — of GP appointments across England were face-to-face in a surgery. Another 10million, or 39 per cent, were on the phone, with 900,000 being home visits and video calls.
Before the pandemic about eight out of ten appointments were in person at a clinic and critics warn patients will suffer if they are not brought back.
Jonathan Ashworth, Shadow Health Secretary, said: “It can mean missed diagnosis of serious illness. It’s urgent that ministers put forward a NHS rescue plan with the resources and staff to ensure everyone who wants a face-to-face GP appointment can get one.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I am determined to ensure patients can see their GP in the way they want, no matter where they live.
“I also want to thank GPs and their teams for their enormous efforts in the most challenging times in living memory.
“Our new plan provides general practice teams with investment and targeted support.”
He said the new measures would “tackle underperformance” by taking the pressure off staff so they can spend more time with patients and increase the number of face-to-face appointments.
The minister added: “Alongside this we are setting out more measures to tackle abuse and harassment so staff at GP surgeries who work so tirelessly to care for patients can do so without having to fear for their safety.”
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