What is seven day GP cover?

Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged access to a family doctor for all by the end of the decade. He aims to achieve this by opening surgeries for up to 12 hours a day, from 8am-8pm, thus giving the working class flexibility to see a doctor after working hours or on the weekend. Mr Cameron states the plan is already in action as 7 million people already have access to their doctor seven days a week , with a further 3 million who will be given access in 2015 and for everyone in the country to be given this privilege by the end of the next parliament. shutterstock_131746163

Why is this plan being implemented?

Official figures state that millions of patients have to wait a week or more for a doctor’s appointment. Adding to this, the current GP opening hours are 9am-5pm or similar, which is the same as a normal working day; hence many from the working class have no choice but to take time off to see their doctor. It is hoped that the plan will end rigid 10 minute appointments giving doctors more time to spend with patients who require extra attention.

How will this plan be implemented?

There will be a gradual introduction of the seven day GP cover. As aforementioned there are 7 million people who have access now, which will be extended to everybody by the end of next parliament. Furthermore, there will be an increase in the use of technology as doctors will consult with patients via email and internet video link i.e. Skype. Telecare technology will be used as part of the care plan of patients with LTC’s (long term conditions), thus making time savings.

Cost

Undoubtedly, extended and expanding primary healthcare services will have significant cost implications. The trial of this plan alone cost £50 million, which entailed opening 20 GP surgeries seven days a week and a £400 million investment has been forecasted over the next 5 years in order to implement the plan to its full extent.

Opposition

There is staunch opposition to this proposal by doctors and GP’s. It is claimed that there will be a shortage of doctors to meet the extra demands on the weekend, which could possible affect the quality of the weekday services, a patient may still not be able to see a GP at a time they can make as well having to wait longer when for a doctor during the weekdays.

The response to this is the following quoted from a source: “We’re not being prescriptive as to how doctors do this — we understand that GPs will know best how to set this up — but we want to give them as many of the tools needed as possible.” Essentially, the way in which the system is set up is up to the doctors and the government will provide all the support as necessary.

Even if GP’s agree there is also a huge question mark over its economic viability. We have recently learnt that the United Kingdom owes the European Commission £1.7bn towards the European Union’s budget based on the performance of the UK economy. Where will the money come from?

Can it work? How will its success be measured?

A slow integration into the seven day GP cover is the ideal way towards making the plan success. It goes without saying that the success of the plan boils down GP compliance. Additionally, there will be demand for GP’s to facilitate the expansion of services, which will result in the rise of locum doctors; furthermore, the UK may have to bring in doctors from abroad to bridge the gap.

The success of the seven day plan should be measured upon four factors, which all come down to data:

–          Statistical data: trend analysis of appointments and cancellations and waiting times.

–          Patient feedback data: How patients feel about their service.

–          Friends and Family data: The friends and family test is to be rolled out to GP surgeries as of December 2014, hence interpreting this data will be pivotal in measuring its success.

–          Outcome measures: Measuring the outcomes of GP visits.

–          Financial data: Cost savings/ROI made as a result of the seven day plan.

As always, data recording and capture plays a key role in performance measurement. Examining, analysing and interpreting the data at on-going basis will enable the Department of Health or NHS England to continually measure the effects of the plan and where change and adjustments may be required.

DCC have worked within the public and health sector for over a decade and have worked with many of the aforementioned measures and data types. Data visibility and transparency are of utmost importance and is our specialty.

There is a lot of power in data, if you are a GP or a patient please tell us your concerns and what hinges on the success of the seven day cover and we’ll impart our decades worth of experience in achieving efficiency and measuring performance. Alternatively, book your free on-site assessment today.