Changes to GP contracts for 2023/2024 mean patients should be able to access appointments without enduring the 8am scramble and subsequent telephone queue we are all so very used to.
The new GP contract was published on Monday, 6 March by NHS England and will be in place from next month. The change is part of NHS England’s goal to ensure equitable and consistent patient access. The contract states that:
‘Patients should be offered an assessment of need, or signposted to an appropriate service, at first contact with the practice. Practices will therefore no longer be able to request that patients contact the practice at a later time.’
While the contract’s wording does not elaborate on an appropriate service, this will likely mean telephone and in-person appointments, referral to pharmacists for minor illnesses, physiotherapists for muscular skeletal issues, or Accident and Emergency Departments for more urgent health concerns.
The contract change will ensure patients can access timely and appropriate care, but it will no doubt take time for practices to implement the changes.