Government sets out plan to boost access to primary care.

Ministers have announced policies to tackle the 8am GP appointment rush and give a bigger role to pharmacies to ease pressure on the NHS.

While the general practice workforce has grown by 27 per cent since 2019 demand for appointments remains high. The number of people in the UK aged over 70 is a third higher than in 2010. This group is five times more likely to visit a GP than a teenager.

To tackle this the Government is investing the equivalent of £35,000 per GP practice in technology upgrades to ease the 8am rush on the phone lines and make more services available online.

The GP contract has also been amended by cutting back targets, improving communication between GPs and hospitals and reducing GPs needing to do work that can be done by non-GP staff.

The forthcoming NHS workforce plan will set out plans to expand GP training while recently introduced pension rules will help to retain senior GPs by lifting 8,900 out of annual tax charges.

Pharmacists will also be able to supply prescription-only medicines for ear pain, severe sore throats, skin and urinary infections. They will also be able to start courses for oral contraception.

Andrew Jones MP said: “GPs are seeing ten per cent more patients than before the pandemic which works out at around 20 more appointments per day per practice across the country.

“This plan is about ensuring that people are seen by a person who can help them as quickly as possible. That may be a pharmacist in some circumstances.

“In other circumstances it might be a GP in which case we need to make as many appointments available. We can do this by ensuring that where patients can be helped by someone other than a GP they are able to do so.”