NHS Gloucestershire has praised local GP surgeries and community pharmacies for their innovation and dedication to new ways of working, despite unprecedented levels of patient need.

It comes as NHS England publishes its Delivery Plan for Recovering Access to Primary Care for England this week.

Local GP surgeries continue to face many challenges, including a record increase in patient contacts and staffing shortages across practice teams.

Against that backdrop, local NHS leaders say that GP surgeries deserve huge recognition for their commitment to patient care and work to embrace innovative practices and local partnerships.

They add that local GP practices and Primary Care Networks (groups of GP practices working together with community services) are doing their level best to improve access, patient experience and outcomes.

However, they are clear that the pressures are intense and additional funding and measures to expand the existing workforce will be critical to the future of primary care.

Capitalising on their strong track record in embracing new ways of working and developing practice teams, GP practices in Gloucestershire are committed to offering the right kind of care and appointments, based on the nature of the patient’s symptoms, condition and needs.

Gloucestershire GP practices rapidly expanded digital and telephone services to deliver care during the COVID-19 pandemic. As well as face to face appointments, these options continue to be offered to patients where appropriate and are welcomed by many for being less disruptive to work and personal commitments and for reducing the need to travel.

Many practices have also been introducing new systems to make it easier for patients to make appointments with the most appropriate member of the team.

Dr Jonathan Layzell, GP Partner at Rosebank Health in Gloucester, said:

“Whilst every day in primary care is a challenge due to workforce shortages and the fact that demand often exceeds our capacity, we are doing our best to be innovative and take opportunities to adapt how we work to help us serve our patients and support our staff as best we can.

To manage the increasing demand for GP appointments, Rosebank Health, which is both a practice and a PCN, recently developed a Clinical Assessment Hub.

This enables us to have a greater level of clinical expertise when initially assessing patients and ensures that they are directed quickly to the most appropriate onward care or support to meet their needs.”

Practices have also extended their teams, and now have clinical pharmacists, physiotherapists, mental health professionals, paramedics and other professionals working within or alongside practice teams, helping to meet the individual needs of patients.

Dr Hein Le Roux, GP at Churchdown Surgery said:

“We know how important it is for people to receive the right care and timely support from their GP practice in a way that suits their needs.

Thanks to the expert support of our extended practice teams, we are now able to offer more appointments with a variety of health professionals to meet the specific needs of patients.

This has the added benefit of freeing up GP time for those with the most urgent and complex medical needs.”

Helen Goodey, Director of Primary Care and Place at NHS Gloucestershire added:

“We are incredibly grateful to our GP practices and their brilliant teams for the excellent care they provide to their patients, despite these incredibly tough times for primary care.

We are doing everything we can to work with practices and Primary Care Networks to provide the best possible access to services and will continue to provide support, particularly around areas such as recruitment, appointments and booking systems.

We will also continue to progress our long-term primary care infrastructure plan to improve surgery environments and patient experiences. Over the last six years, around £65m worth of capital investment has supported 20 schemes, both new surgery buildings and extensions.”

As part of the national plan, NHS Gloucestershire has welcomed the announcement of extra funding for community pharmacies and acknowledges that this is much needed. It will help pharmacy teams to use their skills and experience to provide additional services that will benefit patients.

Pharmacy services set to be expanded include Pharmacy First, which will enable pharmacists to supply prescription only medicines, including antibiotics and antivirals where clinically appropriate, to treat seven common health conditions (sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bike, impetigo, shingles and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women) without the need to visit a GP.

Andrew Lane, Chair of the Local Pharmaceutical Committee in Gloucestershire, said:

“Pharmacists can give expert clinical advice on many minor illnesses and are an excellent first port of call for many patients.

Pharmacy colleagues in Gloucestershire are already delivering more clinical services than ever before. We are looking forward to extending the range of services provided which will benefit patients and in turn support GP practices.”


Additional informatoin:

The Delivery Plan for Recovering Access to Primary Care is on the NHS England website: https://www.england.nhs.uk/publication/delivery-plan-for-recovering-access-to-primary-care/

Key themes:

The plan outlines aims to make it easier and quicker for patients to get the help they need from primary care with the following key themes:

  • Empowering patients to manage their own health, including using the NHS App, self-referral and more services from community pharmacies
  • Implementing ‘Modern General Practice Access’ so that patients know on the day how their request will be handled, based on clinical need, and continuing to respect their preference for a call, face-to-face appointment, or online message
  • Building capacity so that practices can offer more appointments from more staff than ever before
  • Cutting bureaucracy to give practice teams more time to focus on their patients’ clinical needs