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Announced by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the UK Government and the NHS are committing an additional £1.5 billion in total for general practice over the next four years.

This move is part of the Government’s aims to deliver 50 million more appointments in general practice by 2024 and supports the NHS Long Term Plan to help recruit 6,000 more primary care professionals as well as for initiatives to support the recruitment and retention of doctors in general practice.

The General Practice Contract for 2020/21 also includes a roadmap for delivering the numbers of doctors in general practice by 6,000 and bring in 26,000 new staff to bolster surgeries. This will include pharmacists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists (OTs), who will become a core part of local primary care teams, reducing pressure on general practice and ensure patients can see or speak to the right clinician.

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Also included in the agreement are regular visits for care home residents, assessing medication and new incentives to increase uptake of vaccinations and learning disability health checks, expand social prescribing referrals, and improve prescription safety checks.

According to the DHSC, expanding the new workforce will allow GPs to focus on the sickest patients and will, in time, allow them to provide longer appointments to people who need one.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I want the NHS to be there for everyone when they need it, and to take pressure off hospitals by expanding primary care.

“This new contract is the first step to delivering our manifesto commitment to make it easier to get a GP appointment when you need it by delivering 50 million more appointments a year in general practice.

“The significant additional investment means GP surgeries can recruit more pharmacists, physiotherapists and other health professionals so patients get the right care for them when they need it. It’s all part of our commitment to ensure the NHS is always there for everyone.”

Alongside the new £1.5 billion investment, the British Medical Association (BMA) GP Committee England said that the investment includes a ‘partnership premium’, which is a one-off payment of £20,000 available to new partners with additional training support.

The deal also now includes 100 per cent reimbursement for all additional staff recruited via the primary care networks and £173 million for primary care networks to employ a wider range of professionals to help manage workload and provide appointments, including pharmacy technicians. These build on previously agreed roles such as clinical pharmacists, physiotherapists and paramedics.

This reimbursement is called the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme.

Welcoming the reimbursement scheme, Karin Bishop, Director of Professional Operations at the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT), said: “This is fantastic news for our profession and more importantly will have a positive impact on the people who use our services. The Royal College made our inclusion in the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme a top policy priority and we have been working hard to highlight the benefits for people who have access to occupational therapy in their local community.

“GP Practices across England see the value that occupational therapists bring when it comes to alleviating the pressures that GPs face daily. The fact that we, as well as some other key Allied Health Professions, are now included in the scheme simply showcases the huge effect we can and do make.”

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