GP appointments to be reserved for NHS 111 direct bookings
EXCLUSIVE: Commissioners are reserving a set proportion of GP appointments for NHS 111 direct booking following instruction from NHS England, Pulse has learned.
Under the NHS England instructions, at least 5% of all callers must be given the option of booking an in-hours GP appointment following contact with an NHS 111 clinician, if a GP appointment is deemed to be necessary.
CCGs have told Pulse that they have been asked to meet the 5% target by December 2017, with the target growing to 30% by April 2019.
NHS England has not confirmed how the target will be enforced, or whether there is any money attached to it, but it follows pilots elsewhere in the country that were set up to further NHS England's 'integrated urgent care' policy.
But GPs say there is still ‘skepticism’ over how NHS 111 direct booking to in-hours GP appointments will effect workload and any target will have to be included in this year's GP contract if it is to succeed.
NHS Windsor, Ascot and Maidenhead CCG told Pulse that rolling out NHS 111 direct booking has been made a national target set by NHS England.
A spokesperson said: ‘All CCGs are required by NHS England to have at least 5% of booking from NHS 111 into an in hours GP appointment by December 2017 and ultimately 30% by April 2019.’
Further explanation from the CCG revealed that ‘5% of all callers will have the option to book an in hours GP appointment following a contact with NHS 111 if a GP appointment is the most appropriate onward pathway’.
NHS England would not comment directly on the details of the national target, but responding to Pulse's inquiry, a spokesperson said: 'For those patients who call 111 and are assessed by a clinician (not just by a call handler) as needing a GP practice appointment it makes sense to be able to book that directly.
'The ability of a 111 GP, nurse or paramedic to accurately assess whether a person needs a practice appointment is likely to compare well with the alternative of an equivalent judgement having to be made by the practice's own receptionist, especially if this then occurs some time later when the patient may already have just decided to head to A&E.'
But Dr Nigel Watson, chief executive of Wessex LMCs, said that GPs are ‘wary’ about opening appointments to direct booking.
He said: ‘We’re short of appointments now and struggle to meet the demands, so the thought of just opening it up to another provider to directly book is not something at this stage that we would agree locally, I think it’s got to be a nationally negotiated agreement.’
He added that GPs are unlikely to......
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