While public satisfaction with GPs remains high, in recent years patients have been raising concerns (including through the GP Patient Survey), that they have experienced increased difficulty in accessing services through their GP, including being able to make an appointment.
The issue has not just been about getting an appointment when a patient needs it, but also about having access to the right person, providing the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

BOB STP has been working with Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in the Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire area, to roll out improved GP access and has achieved 100% access across the area by October 2018 in line with revised deadlines outlined in the General Practice Forward View. (The original deadline was March 2019).

Improved Access is continuing in its present form until March 2021. From April 2021, the funding will move from CCGs to be being held by Primary Care Networks (PCNs).

To improve patient access to services, GPs (individually or jointly), are now open in the BOB STP area,  from 8am to 8pm during the week, as well as providing a more limited weekend service.

Key benefits

  • GP services are providing sufficient routine appointments in the evenings and weekends, to meet locally determined demand, alongside effective access to out-of- hours and urgent care services.
  • Patients will be able to access GP services at times that work best for them and which fit around existing commitments such as employment or education.
  • Fewer patients will use A&E services as an alternative to seeing their GP, if they can get a GP appointment in the evening and at weekends, meaning those who genuinely need access to an accident and emergency service can be seen more quickly.

Seven core requirements

  1. Timing: appointments occur 8-8 and at weekends
  2. Capacity: additional appointments equate to greater than 30 minutes per 1000 population
  3. Measurement: practices are able to use the new GP Workload Tool to automatically measure appointment activity by all participating practices, both in-hours and in extended hours. This will enable improvements in matching capacity to times of high demand
  4. Advertising: ensure services are advertised to patients in the surgery, online and through local publicity
  5. Digital: ensure use of digital approaches to support new models of care in General Practice
  6. Inequalities: practices to carry out an Equality Impact Assessment and ensure they have an action plan to address all inequalities around Access
  7. Wider system: ensure connection to other system services enabling patients to receive the right care from the right professional, including access from and to other primary care and general practice services such as urgent care services

Alex Woodroffe, GP Five Year Transformation Lead for BOB STP says “Going from 0% to 100% improved access in Buckinghamshire and Berkshire West, in a timescale that was shortened by 6 months was always going to be a challenge. (Oxfordshire had already received earlier funding to help improve GP access).

“However, the CCGs worked very closely with the GP Federations to form project boards, create and execute project and mobilisation plans.

“BOB STP supported information-sharing across the area (as well as from beyond the STP).

“Regular liaison with NHS England also allowed sharing of successful policies, protocols and plans from other earlier adopters.

“GP services are now more accessible across the whole of the STP, both in terms of the number of appointments on offer but also more convenient timings of those appointments

For more information contact:

Alex Woodroffe, GPFV Transformation Lead (alex.woodroffe@nhs.net )

Berks West: Helen Clark (helen.clark23@nhs.net)

Bucks: Helen Delaitre (helen.delaitre@nhs.net)

Oxfordshire: Julie Dandridge (julie.dandridge@nhs.net)