The county of Gloucestershire has been named as a leading area for implementing the planned reforms to GP services.
The county’s 75 practices are organised in 16 primary care networks and together they will create an extra 100,000 appointments a year, according to NHS England.
In some networks paramedics are carrying out home visits – sparing doctors from 120 visits a month. Other networks have employed physiotherapists offering 180 appointments a month in total. NHS England envisages networks employing about 20,000 clinical support staff across the country.
Gloucestershire also has three mental health practitioners, seeing about 65 patients a week and more than 40 clinical pharmacists.
Tewkesbury GP Dr Jeremy Welch said: “Introducing different skill mixes into our practices has been excellent for patients, and across Gloucestershire we have a variety of different services based on each surgery’s specific need. The feedback from patients and staff has been extremely pleasing and we are encouraged to keep developing the offer we are able to provide to our patients.”
NHS England acting medical director for primary care, Dr Nikki Kanani, said: “Patients want to get an appointment as quickly as possible when they contact their GP surgery and it’s great news that in Gloucestershire there are now many more appointments available.
“Also a mixed team of health professionals including nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists or paramedics means patients can be seen quicker by the right health professionals for their needs, freeing up time for GPs to see the most complex patients.”
Matthew Winn, chair of the Community Network, which represents community health providers, said: “We welcome the development and funding of Primary Care Networks, working as part of local systems. They have the potential to increase the number of people being cared for at home but it is important they are configured locally and delivered in partnership.”