Practices in Wales are to be required to have phone systems which manage messages from patients – and end the need for multiple call-backs, it has been announced.
Patients should also expect to receive a “prompt response” to calls, according to the Welsh government.
The Welsh government said it hoped new “standards” for practice levels of services would help tackle falling satisfaction with practices.
It wants patients to be able to use a range of options to contact practice, including the ability to use email to request a call-back or a non-urgent consultations. Practices are to be given two years to meet the standards.
GP leaders said imposing standards was the wrong way to improve services.
Dr Charlotte Jones, who chairs the British Medical Association’s Welsh GP committee, said: “Imposing standards on an already overstretched workforce is not the best way to achieve the shared aim of improving access.
“The way to address this is to support GP practices to release capacity for patients who need their care. This can be achieved through improving recruitment of GPs, practice nurses and ensuring the wider multi-disciplinary primary and community care workforce are in place. It can be achieved through ensuring patients are empowered to self-care when appropriate. It can be achieved through resourcing supporting infrastructure for practices to take forward different ways of providing access; through properly supporting practices and enhancing the partnership model so that we have sustainable services available to patients.”
Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething said: “Today’s announcement is not about putting additional pressure on our GP services, it is about them delivering a level of service patients in Wales should expect as a minimum.
“For many practices across Wales, the standards I’ve announced today will already be in place, but for others this will be a journey of improvement. Over time I would like to see these standards developed further so that services are continually improving for the citizens of Wales.”