“Happy Birthday GP+”

13th September 2016

Last week (7th September) was the first birthday of our GP+ service. In the first 12 months we have provided over 15,000 extra GP appointments. The appointments, particularly in Ipswich, have been used by practices which are under considerable pressure. One the few initiatives I can remember in general practice to do this.

So after 12 months what have we learned?

  • There is willingness for GPs and nurses to provide out-of-hours care if it is provided in the right way with the right support.
  • Payment is an issue but not the main issue (see below)
  • Independence – Being funded centrally allowed us the freedom to develop the GP+ programme as we felt appropriate. Clearly we had targets and had to share information with NHSE about how the money was spent, but we were able to deliver the project at speed.
  • Working across two different computer systems was a challenge and we became aware how little interoperability there truly is.
  • Dealing with services out of our direct control was a significant delay in the process in the project, and that is a recurring theme in our work as a federation.
  • Information Governance – This was an opportunity to test in real life what information governance and data sharing really means for practices. There is a lot of learning that we achieved from this.
  • Having shift lead meetings and wash-ups at the end of the sessions has been really helpful in identifying early problems from minor gripes to significant concerns, being able to feed directly back to the management team for action.
  • The co-operative idea lives! There is a co-operative spirit in general practice and being able to do something that may help harder pressed colleagues in other areas feels very worthwhile.
  • Our patient feedback is exceptional with 99% referring us to family friends. Part of this comes as having an engaged and positive workforce. I am really grateful for colleagues that have helped provide this service.
  • Demands – The ongoing march for 7-days general practice continues despite startling lack of evidence for its effect. However this has given us the ability to help shape the service to local demand. We know that Mondays and Fridays are very busy and patients are very willing to come in on a Saturday, less so on a Sunday. The reality is that a 6 ½ day service would probably be adequate.
  • Collaborative Working – Uniquely for a Prime Minister`s Challenge Fund project we have had relationships with the Emergency Department, 111 and the Ambulance Service, all of which have been helpful in identifying the stresses in each service and how we can work collaboratively to address them.

Thanks to all involved for their hard work and support.