GP practices in line for £1.8m from controversial access fund

David Brown, deputy chief operating officer at Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group

David Brown, deputy chief operating officer at Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group. Picture: NHS IESCCG - Credit: NHS IESCCG

Ipswich and East Suffolk GP surgeries could get just under £1.8million from a controversial "winter access fund".

However, health chiefs have warned it will be hard to increase face-to-face appointments because staff are already working flat out.

They also told of "dreadful" abuse towards staff working in general practice - and appealed to patients to be "more kind".

Meanwhile, West Suffolk practices could get £1.1m, while those in the North East Essex area could receive £1.5m.

The cash would be part of a £250m pot from NHS England. However, the NHS "blueprint" has already come under fire from doctors and Healthwatch Suffolk, who previously described the money as a "drop in the ocean".

At an Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group meeting, David Brown, deputy chief operating officer, said the CCG was working on a bid for its share of the cash.

"All the CCGs have been asked to submit plans to enhance and improve access to their local practices, which is extremely difficult given that they're already working flat out."

Female Doctor at her Office Dialing a Telephone

Phone consultations work well for many patients, the Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG heard - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Mr Brown said practices in the area were already having a higher proportion of face-to-face consultations than the national average. They saw more than 60% of patients in person, compared to 58% for England overall.

Most Read

Looking at phone and video consultations, he said: "Most patients, not all, find that they're really convenient."

He commented: "We are sometimes finding patients are getting frustrated and they're bubbling over, and they're becoming abusive to staff in general practice. That's obviously dreadful, and it needs to stop.

"What I'd like to do is take this opportunity to urge the people of Suffolk to be more kind to those who are working in general practice.

"They're working really hard to ensure that all those who need care are seen as quickly as they can be."

Dr Lorna Kerr said there were shortages of manpower across the NHS, including general practice. 

"With the best will in the world, extra money is not necessarily going to produce people straight away who are fully trained, and it's going to be very difficult."

She said the whole system was under pressure, and phone consultations were a way of improving efficiency and a good option for some patients.

Gill Jones of Healthwatch Suffolk said: "I think, with regards to telephone consultations, they do work for an awful lot of people, but not all, obviously."

She said there needed to be better communication to make patients aware surgeries were still operating under Covid conditions.

"It seems like everyone thinks it's over, and it's not. It certainly isn't within health settings. I think that's a message that needs to be communicated, and not in a scaremongering way, but just communicated so people understand more."