A RYEDALE GP practice has seen its appointment waiting times almost halved after taking part in a pilot project.

Pickering Medical Practice signed up to the Time for Care programme, which has seen surgeries across the country adopt new ways of working, including letting patients book appointments sooner, cutting paperwork and offering faster access to different specialist health professionals.

The surgery has five full-time equivalent GPs serving a patient population of 10,500, but through its Time For Care programme, it has reduced GP appointment waiting times by nearly half.

As patients are able to see a GP sooner, the demand for urgent care consultations has fallen from 48 per cent to 37 per cent. There has also been a 12 per cent increase in telephone appointments, which has reduced the number of patients seeing a GP face-to-face by eight per cent.

The programme will now be rolled out across the country. after success in pilot sites, has been extended for three years beyond its initial March 2019 end date and aims to cover three quarters of GP practices by 2022.

Helena Ebbs, a GP at Pickering Medical Practice, said: “The programme has had a great impact on patients, me, the practice, my role in the CCG and federation. It’s energised my enthusiasm in a time of great pressure and given me something to enjoy.

“There’s been lots of benefits for my practice and patients, and I am really proud of the changes we’ve made.”

Dr Nikita Kanani, NHS England’s medical director for primary care said: “This programme has had significant benefits for patients and GPs alike, freeing up doctors’ time and NHS resources to ensure people get the care they need as quickly as possible, as part of our long term plan for the health service.

“GP services will continue to be at the heart of our health service, and it makes sense to invest for another three years in a programme that is delivering so much for patients while helping us to be more efficient.”

The renewed push to free up GPs to spend more time with patients comes on top of a new five-year contract for general practice across England, which will see billions of extra investment for improved access to family doctors, expanded services at local practices and longer appointments for patients who need them.

This will see 20,000 more staff – including clinical pharmacists, physiotherapists, community paramedics, associate physicians and social prescribing link workers - employed to help GP practices work together to provide a wider range of care for patients, closer to their homes.

The three-year extension is part of a £30m investment in a national programme for General Practice Development committed to in the GP Forward View.