GP surgeries will be given £240 million for new telephone systems so patients will no longer have to deal with betrothed tones or long waits during the battle for 8am appointments.
Receptionists will also receive more training to direct callers to the physician best suited to their needs.
Practices should not tell patients to call back later and should offer a same-day appointment or assessment or refer them to, for example, a pharmacist or emergency room.
It comes after surveys showed that public satisfaction with GPs has reached an all-time low, with patients particularly frustrated by difficulties accessing a doctor and getting through over the phone.
An average size practice of 10,000 patients often receives over 100 calls in the first hour each Monday, but many patients may be seen by someone other than a GP.
(Stock Photo) GP surgeries to be given £240 million for new phone systems so patients will no longer face engaged tones or long waits while competing for 8am appointments
(Stock Photo) Receptionists will also receive more training to direct callers to the doctor best suited to their needs
The digital telephone systems add callers to a queue, inform them of their position and enable them to be called back.
Online tools give patients an alternative way to find the right professional for their needs, such as a pharmacist, and allow them to book appointments. The changes will be incorporated into the government’s GP access recovery plan to be published tomorrow.
It also expected to create a greater role for pharmacists to ease the pressure on physicians.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘We are already making real progress with 10 per cent more GP appointments each month compared to pre-pandemic levels. I want to make sure people get the right support when they contact their GP surgeries and end the 8am hassle for appointments.
“To do this, we are improving technology and reducing bureaucracy, increasing the workforce and changing the way primary care is delivered.”
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘I want to make sure people get the right support when they contact their GP’
The government is financing 6,500 so-called care navigator training places – one employee per practice – who must pass on the training to colleagues.
Professor Kamila Hawthorne, from the Royal College of GPs, welcomed the investment but said more needs to be done.
“We await further details of the full access recovery plan, but ultimately the best way to improve access to GP care and tackle the intense workload and staffing pressure GP teams operate under is to increase the number of fully trained, full-time equivalent GPs through effective recruitment and retention programs,” she added.
Occupational health spokesman Wes Streeting said: ‘The reason people can’t get a GP appointment is that the Conservatives have cut 2,000 GPs. Better music on hold isn’t going to change that.
“Nothing in this announcement will train more doctors, allow patients to choose an in-person appointment or bring back the GP so that patients see the same GP every time.”