The government is committed to improving the public’s access to primary healthcare by introducing seven-day GP services across England. The Prime Minister’s GP Access Fund (formerly called Challenge Fund) was established to help improve access to general practice and stimulate new ways of providing primary care services. We were commissioned as NHS England’s national evaluation partner to assess the new models of care being put in place to deliver change.
We evaluated the first wave of 20 pilot projects, covering 1100 practices and 7.5M patients. These schemes have seen the launch of a wide range of innovative ways to make it easier for patients to access their GP, including telephone and online consultations. New partnerships have also been formed between practitioners, pharmacists and paramedics to enhance access to services. Our evaluation was designed to understand which innovations were proving most successful, the benefits that were being realised, factors which were enabling success, challenges encountered, and the extent to which value for money was being achieved.
Our findings identified that, at a national level, these schemes have created more than 1M additional appointments and that the use of a different range of practitioners to support primary care services is cost-effective and proving popular with patients. The schemes have also seen a reduction in patients accessing A&E hospital services with a 14% decrease in patients presenting with ‘minor’ conditions compared to 4% nationally. For the second wave of 37 pilots (1400 practices and 10.6M patients) we have once again been appointed as NHS England’s national evaluation partner. This work will further build the national evidence base for developing a more effective primary care service.