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Overview: Access and Urgent Care in General Practice

The GP practice is the first place that most people go when they have a health problem.  Nationally, about 100 million same day appointments are made in about 8,000 practices across England, about a third of the overall visits to practices in a year.

A small change in general practice can have a significant impact on flows to other parts of the urgent care system.  Effective and timely responses in General Practice benefit patients and reduce acute referrals to Hospital.  Ensuring General Practice develops a rapid and effective response in every practice should be a fundamental part of every urgent care strategy.

In May 2009 a report ‘Urgent Care in General Practice’ commissioned by the Department of Health and with the widespread backing of the profession was sent to all practices, PCTs and SHAs in England (for full report click HERE).

We have spent the last 9 years developing support for practices so that they can translate our findings into a clearer understanding of how they currently work, how this compares to others and potential opportunities to improve care.  Central to our approach has been developing a web based tool that allows practices across the Country to submit a week of practice data providing us with information about calls, appointments as well as questions about how they work in the practice. We put this alongside other information, including patient experience from the latest General Practice Patient Survey and the relative deprivation of the practice population. We also have developed a ‘reception quiz’ that looks at variation in response to potentially urgent calls across the reception team. We then prepare a report that analyses the practice’s performance on access and urgent care, how this compares to others across the Country and offers some practical suggestions for making improvements.

Interest continues to grow in understanding how practices manage access and urgent care and we have worked or are currently working with nearly 1,500 practices, or approaching 1 in 5 of all practices across England.

For an independent view of our developing work with practices on access and urgent care CLICK HERE for the article in the HSJ on 24th November 2011 ‘Improving Urgent Care: The beast of many heads – the continuing assault from spiralling admissions is just one of the myriad pressures that have created a monstrous challenge for urgent care services to defeat, writes Catherine Blackledge

And below is a video developed by Dudley CCG after we had worked with all of their local practices, acknowledging the frustrations of many patients in accessing GPs and explaining the steps they have taken to improve both access and care for patients.


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About Us

The Primary Care Foundation supports the development of best practice in primary and urgent care. We apply our work shaping national policy to support local change. We use information to create understanding, driving improvements in care, reducing unnecessary variation across organisations and between clinicians and developing practical tools for front-line staff in general practice and urgent care.