GOSPORT MP Dame Caroline Dinenage has welcomed the announcement from the Health and Social Care Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister Thérèse Coffey that patients will receive easier access to NHS and social care this winter.
The new Plan for Patients aims to prioritise ambulances, backlogs, care and doctors and dentists. The government is setting out to improve patients’ access to GP practices, recruit additional support staff and give pharmacies powers to prescribe more medicines and introduce cloud-based telephone systems to GP practices.
The plan – greeted with scepticism by opposition parties when it was revealed in the House of Commons on Thursday because of its two-week target for appointments with GPs – will include changing funding rules to recruit extra support staff so hardworking GPs can focus on treating patients – freeing up over one million appointments per year, as well as more state-of-the art telephone systems to make it easier for patients to get through to their surgeries.
There will also be more information available for patients, with appointments data published at a practice level for the first time ever.
Under the proposals, allowing pharmacies to manage and supply medicines, such as contraceptives, without a GP prescription, will help to free up to two million GP appointments each year.
The plan also allows pharmacies to take referrals from emergency care for illnesses such as coughs, headaches, and sore throats. That is intended to free up valuable time and resources in emergency care departments, helping to reduce waiting times.
The NHS has already set out plans to increase capacity ahead of winter – including rapidly boosting capacity and resilience, creating the equivalent of 7,000 beds, and recruiting more call handlers. The Plan for Patients aims to build on this work and is the first step in the government’s wider scheme to ensure the NHS delivers for patients.
Dame Caroline said: “ I welcome the Health Secretary’s new Plan for Patients that will make a real difference to the people of Gosport, Lee-on-the-Solent, Stubbington and Hill Head.
“For far too long my constituents have been struggling to access timely GP appointments, and I have met with successive Health Ministers to raise this issue. It’s good to hear the new Health Secretary is listening and making changes so quickly into her role.”
Ms Coffey had told MPs when announcing details of the plan: “I will put a laser-like focus on the needs of patients, making their priorities my priorities and being a champion for them on the issues that affect them most.
“Our Plan for Patients will make it easier to get a general practice appointment and we will work tirelessly to deliver that, alongside supporting our hardworking GP teams.
“We know this winter will be tough and this is just the first step in our work to bolster our valued NHS and social care services so people can get the care they need.”
PICTURED: Rowner Health Centre, one of the surgeries in Gosport which will be expected to hit the new government targets. Photograph by Kevin Richards