Department of Health and Social Care
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Health Secretary welcomes recommendations to improve GP access

Health Secretary welcomes recommendations to improve GP access

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH News Release issued by The Government News Network on 22 May 2008

Health Secretary Alan Johnson has committed to creating more responsive and accessible primary care for black and minority ethnic groups (BME) groups, following the recommendations of two reports published today that identify ways of improving access and responsiveness of GP services.

The findings are published in response to issues raised in the largest GP patient survey, which was conducted last year. The reports also recommend creating more responsive and accessible primary care for BME groups.

In response, the Department has announced the creation of a national support programme, led by Dr Michael Warburton, to work with the NHS and with GP practices to drive forward improvements in GP services.

The programme brings together existing work to extend GP opening hours and to invest £250 million in establishing additional primary care services that increase access and patient choice, together with fresh action to ensure that these additional services create more responsive and accessible primary care for BME groups.

Alan Johnson said:

"We recognise that while the overwhelming majority of patients are happy with their experience of GP services there are pockets of dissatisfaction where improvements can be achieved - particularly in some BME groups.

"We welcome the findings of these two reports and are committed to implementing their recommendations. They will build on improvements underway in access and choice, where we are investing an additional £250 million to establish over 150 new GP-led health centres in addition to existing services and over 100 new GP practices in under-served areas.

"These new services will not replace existing family doctors, but will give the public, and many hard to reach groups, extra access to primary care and a wider range of community health services that better meet their needs."

In July 2007, the Health Secretary asked for issues highlighted by the 2007 GP patient survey to be examined in more detail. Professor Mayur Lakhani chaired the review into the reasons for lower satisfaction with GP access among patients from some BME groups. Professor David Colin-Thome, National Director for Primary Care was asked to identify best practice in improving the accessibility and responsiveness of GP services.

Each report identifies 10 areas of best practice that will be shared across the NHS to make GP services more accessible and responsive to the needs of all patients, particularly those from BME communities. These include:

Improving communication between GP practices and people from BME groups;

Giving the public more information about the range and quality of local services to improve patient choice and providing greater opportunities for local communities to influence how GP services are provided;

Introducing more flexible systems for booking GP appointments, greater flexibility over appointment lengths (e.g. where patients have more complex needs or where an interpreter or advocate is involved);

Training for GP receptionists to help them take on a wider role in acting as patient navigators;

More systematic action to listen to and act on patient views;

Opening practices at the right times, both during the day and during evenings and weekends; and

Developing talent and innovation in general practice.

Professor Mayur Lakhani, who led the report that looked at BME patient experience, said:

"It is unacceptable that many BME patients still struggle to get the healthcare they deserve. Strong action is necessary through the report's recommendations. Our approach is based on the fundamental premise that the NHS should provide services that are personalised to meet the identified needs of patients.

"The solutions are not about separate services for BME groups but flexible models of personalised care that are part of mainstream healthcare and raise the quality of care for all members of the public.

"I urge Primary Care Trusts and GPs to start work on improving the experience of BME patients."

Notes to Editors

1. Professor Mayur Lakhani is a GP, the Medical Director for NHS East Midlands, and former Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners.

2. Professor David Colin-Thome is a former GP and National Director of Primary Care at the Department of Health. 3. Dr Mike Warbuton took up his appointment on 17 March 2008.

4. The two reports published today are:

* 'No Patient Left Behind: How can we ensure world class primary care for Black & Minority Ethnic people?' Report of the group chaired by Professor Mayur Lakhani CBE.

* 'Report of the National Improvement Team for Primary Care Access and Responsiveness' led by David Colin-Thome, National Clinical Director for Primary Care.

* They can be found at:

5. A briefing on the existing DH programme of work to improve access to primary care, including the £250 million investment in additional primary care services (including GP-led health centres), is available on request.

6. Joint Department of Health and Healthcare Commission statistics are published today on the self reported experience of patients from black and minority ethnic groups. A copy of the report can be found at:

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