NHS England has written to all GP practices, primary care networks and integrated care boards to make changes to the GP contract 2023/24.
In the letter from Dr Amanda Doyle, national director primary care and community services at NHS England, the changes focus on offering an assessment of need at first contact, mandated use of cloud telephony and prospective (future) record access for patients unless they opt out.
The changes are said to build on the recommendations of the Fuller Stocktake from May 2022, and come as appointments in general practice reached 30 million in January 2023, an increase of 11 percent from January 2020.
On offering an assessment, the letter notes a need to ensure “consistency in the access that patients can expect… the GP contract will be updated to make clear that patients should be offered an assessment of need, or signposted to an appropriate service, at first contact with the practice”. It adds that “practices will therefore no longer be able to request that patients contact the practice at a later time”.
A change to the Impact and Investment Fund will now see £246m to be entirely focused on “improving patient experience of contacting their practice and receiving a response with an assessment and/or be seen within the appropriate period”.
The letter also notes the requirement to mandate the use of cloud based telephony. It adds that “all practices need to be aware, that from the end of 2025, all analogue ISDN and PSTN lines will be removed for use in all home and business settings” and that “only cloud-based platforms will be supported”.
For prospective record access, the contract will be amended so patients have online access to their prospective medical records by 31 October 2023, unless they have opted out or any exceptions apply. The letter notes that 1,400 practices are currently offered this access.
On the existing requirements for record access, the letter states: “the GP contract regulations relating to providing online access to historic coded and full records will also be amended so that they are consistent with access to information under the GDPR. Amendment of these existing requirements will also provide clarity on how practices are required to offer, promote and provide online access to patient records.”
NHS England notes the ‘Delivery Plan for Recovering Access to Primary Care’ will be published shortly, to set out how practices and PCNs can be supported to improve access during 2023/24.
To read the letter, please click here.