Millions of patients will benefit from faster and more convenient NHS care under a major new GP access recovery plan.

In the plan, patients will be able to access NHS care from their high street pharmacy, as a result of a major expansion of services under a radical plan to improve access to primary care.

Patients who need prescription medication will be able to get it directly from a pharmacy, without a GP appointment. This will be for common conditions such as earache, sore throat, or urinary tract infections. The plan will come into effect by next winter. The government are investing £645 million over two years to expand community pharmacy services. This improvement in access to care better supports patients to manage their own health, and to modernise general practice for future generations.

The plan is expected to free up around 15 million GP appointments over the next two years for patients who need them most. This will end the 8 am rush for appointments, with no patient having to wait on hold only to be told to call back another day for help. This will be supported by investment in better phone technology for GP teams enabling them to manage multiple calls and redirect them to other specialists, such as pharmacists and mental health practitioners, if more suitable.  

Extra training will also be provided to staff answering calls at GP practices, so that people who need to see their family doctor are prioritised while those who would be better seen by other staff, such as physiotherapists or mental health specialists, are able to bypass their GP.

The plan will enable up to half a million people a year to self-refer for key services, including physiotherapy, hearing tests, and podiatry, without seeing their GP first.  

The new plan aims to support primary care services to continue to adapt and innovate to meet patients’ needs. This includes better access to the NHS App, with nine in ten people able to access their GP records, including test results, on the NHS App within the next year.

Demand for GP access is only going to increase with the number of people over 70 growing by a third since 2010. GP teams are already treating record numbers, with half a million more appointments delivered every week compared to pre-pandemic.

Read the NHS press release here