But Dr John Hughes, chairman of grassroots campaign group GP Survival, said: “There’s never any money without major strings attached”, calling the plan to publish GP surgery level data “inappropriate” and saying it could “name and shame practices”.
Steve Brine, a former Tory health minister, welcomed the push for greater transparency, as a “good thing” as long as it helped improve access to in-person care. Mr Brine argued that it should not be viewed as “naming and shaming” surgeries but as a positive move to drive up standards in partnership with GPs.
The role of pharmacists is set to be elevated in order to relieve some of the workload burden on GPs. NHS England is examining a scheme in Scotland, called Pharmacy First, that allows pharmacists to pick up more of doctors’ work, including handing out prescriptions. Pilots are under way.
In a further bid to reduce the administrative burdens on GPs and free up more time for appointments, the NHS will widen the circle of professionals that can provide medical evidence and certificates such as fit notes and DVLA checks. Money will be spent on upgrading telephone systems so patients can speak to surgery staff more easily and avoid long waits.
Amanda Pritchard, the newly appointed chief executive of the NHS, said it was a “personal priority” to improve access to high-quality general practice, adding that the health service was “taking both urgent and longer-term action to back GPs and their teams with additional investment and support”.
But on Wednesday night the British Medical Association (BMA) said it was “hugely dismayed” at the rescue package and claimed it showed the Government was “out of touch” with the GP crisis.
Dr Richard Vautrey, the BMA GP committee chairman, said: “Throughout our discussions with ministers and NHS England in recent weeks, the BMA has been clear that without a concerted effort to reduce bureaucracy, admin and red tape in practices, patient access and care was at risk.
“Unfortunately, this offer merely tinkers around the edges and will not reduce the unnecessary burden practices carry and and therefore free up any more time for doctors to see more patients.”
He added that GPs would be “horrified” that the package is being presented as a “lifeline.. when in reality it could sink the ship all together”.