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NHS to expand video and email consultation pilots

Move is part of plans to increase patient access to GPs and pharmacists

Doctor online consultation 

Some 18 million people in the UK are set to be offered more evening and weekend, video, email and telephone consultations by March next year.

The Department of Health says its plans will produce an increase that is equivalent to 8,000 more appointments a day.

Underpinning this is the redevelopment of the existing practices used by over 8.5 million people to increase clinical space and offer additional services, with greater access to pharmacists, nurses and speech therapists from local GP surgeries also on the cards. 

Pharmacists in these practices will particularly see their role increased, with them able to access medical records and provide more personalised advice.

The funding for these changes, announced less than six weeks before the UK's general election, will come from a £100m addition to the existing £50m Prime Minister's Challenge fund, a £250m infrastructure fund for new buildings, treatment rooms and IT and a £200m transformation fund for 29 pilots to integrate services offered by hospitals, GPs, and care homes.

The £100m addition to the Prime Minister's Challenge Fund will support 1,417 practices across the country and should give 10 million people increased access to GP services.

It follows the initial £50m fund, which covered more than 1,100 practices and 7.5 million people. Early evidence from this first phase of work shows it is reducing A&E attendances by up to 15%, the DH said.

Meanwhile, the £250m infrastructure fund, originally announced in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement, will enable more than 1,000 practices to build new integrated health centres, make better use of technology and create more space to offer more appointments.

The fund will also support some practices to offer a wider range of additional services including onsite pharmacists, speech therapists, minor surgery, and diagnostic tests.

The infrastructure fund will also pay for a £10m GP workforce plan which will make it easier for GPs to return to the profession following a career break, encourage more medical students to take up careers as GPs and offer GPs considering early retirement the option to work reduced hours with reduced workloads.

The £200m transformation fund, also announced in the Autumn Statement, will be used to redesign care, with NHS England having earlier this month picked the the first 29 areas of the country that will receive a share of the money for this.

See which GP practices will be involved

31st March 2015

From: Healthcare

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