New NHS rules for GP appointments will end the '8am rush'

New NHS rules for GP appointments aimed at ending the '8am rush' have "doubled" capacity. A scheme trialled by a south London GP practice has helped ease the '8am rush' of phone calls for appointments - and even saved a patient's life. On a typical Monday morning, the team of GP receptionists at Wide Way Medical Centre receives about 500 calls.

The lack of availability meant patient after patient was told to head to A&E instead. But the GP surgery's innovative scheme sees every single phone call answered, with GP surgery staff enlisting the help of ambulance call handlers to help with demand.

It meant 80 per cent of calls for a same-day appointment handed over separate hub of 20 call handlers employed by the London Ambulance Service, based 15 miles away in Barking. One ambulance call handler spotted an 83-year-old man experiencing a diabetic emergency during a phone call - and saved his life.

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Staff were quick to identify “red flag” symptoms and sent over an ambulance immediately. Head receptionist at Wide Way Medical Centre, Julie Schultzers, told The Times: “Previously some patients would be on hold for half an hour before getting through.

“It was very stressful and busy; patients would get upset. Now the average time to answer the phone is less than five minutes. It has made a tremendous difference.” Dr Johra Alam, clinical director for urgent care at the London Ambulance Service, said: “Quick telephone answering is what we do at the ambulance service. It is our area of expertise."

She told The Times newspaper today in a new interview: “Scaling this model up would have a huge impact on emergency care. Currently if patients can’t access their GP they will go somewhere else in the system - the pressures spill out on to A&E.”