ONE of my top priorities as an MP has been to preserve (and where possible improve) local healthcare provision.
In West Devon, when the Care Quality Commission closed the old medical centre in Hatherleigh, I worked with local West Devon Borough Councillor Patrick Kimber to ensure that a new surgery was delivered in Bridge Street.
When North Tawton Medical Centre was earmarked for closure, I worked with local campaigners to keep it open.
In Mid Devon I helped to lobby the Secretary of State for Health for funding for the fantastic new purpose-built GP surgery in Crediton (Redlands Primary Care) which opened 18 months ago.
When I visited the facility last year, I took the opportunity to argue for the retention of GP provision in Thorverton (as the surgery is also run by Redlands).
Within Teignbridge, I have spent the past 18 months making the case to the St Thomas Medical Group in Exeter for the re-opening of Pathfinder GP Surgery in Tedburn St Mary and have had further correspondence with the group in the past fortnight.
The surgery was closed temporarily during the pandemic as it could not be made Covid-secure, and is yet to re-open.
Access to high-quality GP provision is vitally important and the Secretary of State for Health made an important announcement recently regarding NHS England’s Primary Care Plan.
Demand on our GP surgeries is unprecedented – patient contacts with GPs have increased between 20 per cent and 40 per cent since before the pandemic – and the government is increasing investment and looking at how it can reduce the burden on local GP practices.
The Primary Care Plan is focused on three key areas and more than £1.2 billion will be made available to deliver it (on top of the significant recent spending increases on general practice).
Tackling the 8am rush: An average-sized GP practice gets around 100 calls in the first hour of a Monday morning. Receptionists cannot manage this demand, particularly with half of surgeries still on old analogue telephones.
Funding for modern phone systems will be made available for all practices, including features such as call-back options.
Pharmacy First: Up to £645 million will be invested over the next two years to enable pharmacists to supply prescription-only medicines for common conditions like ear pain, UTIs and sore throats without requiring a prescription from a GP.
Pharmacists will also be able to do more blood pressure checks. These changes will make it easier for people to get the care they need more quickly and will release up to 10 million GP appointments a year.
More staff and less bureaucracy: the government is on track to meet a manifesto commitment of having 26,000 more primary care staff by next March.
GPs will also be freed up by spending less time on paperwork and more time seeing patients.
Our plan and additional investment should make a big difference here in Central Devon and across the country.