No plans to change GP funding in light of rise of remote consultations – minister

Healthtech minister says doctors should continue to offer in-person appointments

Credit: George Hodan/Public domain

The formula through which GPs are awarded funding will not be changed in light of the rise of remote appointments, a minister has said.

Lord Kamall, minister for technology, innovation and life sciences at the Department of Health and Social Care, said that NHS advice is that surgeries should offer a mix of in-person and virtual consultations. Patients should be able to choose the method that best suits them, he added.

“NHS England and NHS Improvement, have stated that GP contractors should continue to offer a blended approach of face-to-face and remote appointments, with digital triage where possible,” he said. “Patients input into the choice of consultation mode should be sought and practices should respect preferences for face-to-face care unless there are good clinical reasons to the contrary, for example the presence of Covid-19 symptoms.”

Although practitioners are encouraged to offer in-person examinations, Kamall said that “there are currently no plans to remove funding from GPs who do not offer face-to-face appointments”.

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The minister, who was answering a written parliamentary question from fellow Conservative peer Lord Blencathra, was asked if the wider funding system for doctors’ surgeries would be amended “so that it is based on the number of patients seen, rather than the number of patients registered with the practice”.

“The global sum allocation formula which underpins capitation payments to general practices is designed to ensure that resources are directed to practices based on an estimate of their patient workload and unavoidable practice costs,” Kamall said. “Under this formula, practices whose registered patients have greater healthcare needs are paid more per patient than practices whose registered patients have fewer healthcare needs. There are currently no plans to change the formula.”

Newly published data from NHS Digital reveals that 58% of GP appointments were conducted face to face in August. This is a marked increase from the first national lockdown last year, when the proportion dipped as low as 47%.

But the figure has not returned to its pre-pandemic level; in March 2020, 66% of GP consultations took place in person.

Even before the coronavirus crisis, an increasing number of patients were being offered remote consultation options. In late 2017, citizens were first given the option to switch their NHS GP registration to a smartphone-based service GP at Hand.

The most recently published data shows that the service, which is available to those who live and work in inner London and may be expanded to Birmingham, is comfortably the largest practice in England by volume of patients, with more than 102,675 on the books as of last month.


Sam Trendall

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