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GPs invited to bid for share of £100m ‘access’ fund

Money from Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund will fund second wave of pilots to increase patient access to services

Ingrid Torjesen

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

GPs can now bid for a share of £100m in the second wave of The Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund aimed at improving and extending patient access to GP services.

Practices are being encouraged to work with peers to develop proposals. Bids will need to serve a minimum population of 30,000 and priority will be given to places where practices are opening for longer such as 8am-8pm weekdays and at weekends.

Twenty pilots were launched in April as part of the £50m first wave; each pilot was awarded £400k to £5m. A wide variety of ideas are being trialled in the first wave, including 8am-8pm working, better use of telecare and health apps, access to appointments through e-mail and Skype, and greater flexibility with face-to-face access. By the end of October, more than 4m patients will be covered by the pilots, and by Christmas this will have reached more than 5m.

Dr Mike Bewick, NHS England’s deputy medical director, said: “Even more patients across the country will now be able to see their family doctor in the most convenient way for them and at a more convenient time.”

He added: “The current 20 pilots have had a positive impact in providing patients with better, wide-ranging access to their GP as well as more choice about when and how they see them.” 

Dr Chris Jones, a GP at Church Street Surgery in Ossett, West Yorkshire, led a bid for West Wakefield Health and Wellbeing in wave one on behalf of six practices. 

“Patients at our surgeries are really benefiting from our extended hours service with urgent problems receiving a much faster response from a local GP with full access to their records in our modern local Hub premises,” he said.

“They will soon be able to choose to have a video appointment, have a consultation by email or access routine appointments after 6.30pm and at the weekend if they have difficulty attending during normal hours. We have really enjoyed being involved in this project because it has allowed us to test a number of ideas which will make life easier for our patients.

"I'd encourage any GP to get involved in a bid for the fund as it can provide many opportunities and patients are extremely pleased with the outcome in West Wakefield.”

Applications forms can be submitted from today to NHS England’s area teams to consider, and the deadline for applications is 5pm Friday 16 January 2015. The 1,100 practices successful in wave one cannot therefore bid in wave two, and a national assessment panel will make the final decision on where the funds are allocated. 

NHS England is overseeing the pilots and, as with wave one, the second wave pilots will be part of a 12-month national development and evaluation programme. Alongside the wave one pilots, NHS England has established an “associate network” to the Challenge Fund to link around 24 of the other innovative bids within their region and nationally to share learning. 

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