The end of the 8am scramble for a GP: New plans see an end to dreaded wait tones with urgent cases seen on same day

9 May 2023, 06:47

A GP overhaul should see patients get better access to doctors
A GP overhaul should see patients get better access to doctors. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

The "8am scramble" for a GP will be taken on with new money as the Government hopes to end the dreaded morning rush to speak to a doctor.

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Receptionists will be trained to take on an expanded role so they can assess patients' needs and speed up the time it takes to get an appointment.

New digital phone systems will put an end to the hated engaged tone and instead allow people to get a queue position and a call back option.

They will also be told how their query will be managed on the same day they call.

Patients needing urgent care will get an appointment that day and non-urgent cases should get one within two weeks.

Some £240m will be given to practices to introduce online bookings and the upgraded phone systems.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: "We are already making real progress with 10% more GP appointments happening every month compared to before the pandemic.

Patients should get a better experience with receptionists
Patients should get a better experience with receptionists. Picture: Alamy

"I want to make sure people receive the right support when they contact their general practice and bring an end to the 8am scramble for appointments.

"To do this we are improving technology and reducing bureaucracy, increasing staffing and changing the way primary care services are provided, which are all helping to deliver on the Government's promise to cut waiting lists."

Read more: Major change to GP appointments set to affect millions – how will it impact you?

Staff who handle calls will now be dubbed "care navigators" and 6,500 training places will get funding.

They will send patients either to the right doctor or to another service like a pharmacy.

Rishi Sunak, who is hoping to get back on track after the terrible local election results, put cutting NHS waiting times into his five priorities as prime minister.

The Government wants to improve GP waiting times
The Government wants to improve GP waiting times. Picture: Alamy

The plan to cut times first came from Therese Coffey, during her stint as health secretary during Liz Truss's disastrous and short time as PM.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said the best way to improve access to GPs is to "address the intense workload" and recruit more.

Labour's shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: "The reason people can't get a GP appointment is the Conservatives have cut 2,000 GPs. Better hold music isn't going to change that.

"Nothing in this announcement will train more doctors, allow patients to choose a face-to-face appointment, or bring back the family doctor so patients see the same GP each time.

"This shallow offer shows Rishi Sunak is totally out of touch with the issues patients face, and underlines why he can't offer the change people are crying out for.

"The Government should adopt Labour's plan to train 7,500 more doctors a year, paid for by abolishing the non-dom tax status, and enable patients to easily book appointments to see the doctor they want, in the manner they choose."