NHS online

I am urging GP surgeries in North Cambridgeshire to apply for a share of NHS England’s £50m ‘Challenge Fund’ which has been set aside to pilot extended opening hours and improved access to medical appointments.

The NHS England Challenge fund will see at least one pilot scheme set up in each region to promote better and more convenient access to appointments and medical advice for patients, and it would be a great result for healthcare services locally if we could channel the allocation for our region into North Cambridgeshire.

I would like to see GP surgeries bid for a share of the funding and follow Challenge Fund recommendations on exploring longer opening hours potentially from 8am to 8pm on weekdays and longer opening at weekends. The guidance also recommends offering patients the choice of accessing care from a number of surgery sites in their area.

Other innovations that are being piloted as part of the scheme are consultations via phone, email, webcam and instant messaging. There are also plans to widen the availability of online patient services such as registration and healthy living apps to enable patients to manage their health without having to visit their GP surgery as often.

I hope GP surgeries in Cambridgeshire will take up the opportunity to extend and update patient services. These changes will not only make healthcare more accessible to those who require medical care outside of normal opening hours but will also ensure that patients have more choice as to when and where they are seen by a GP.

This funding could assist forward-looking GP’s surgeries in setting up innovative online communities and services so that patients can register and consult medical advice from home.

It is not often that direct funding is available to GP surgeries on a local basis so I would encourage providers in North Cambridgeshire to consider how this pilot could help to guarantee quality, up to date services for those who are looking for a more flexible approach to their medical appointments.

Practices applying for to the Challenge Fund should submit their expressions of interest by 5pm Friday 14 February to: england.challengefund@nhs.net, copying in their Area Team. For any additional information on the Challenge Fund, applicants should contact their Area Teams.

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