NHS Commissioners are reserving a set proportion of GP appointments for NHS 111 direct booking following instruction from NHS England reports Pulse Today Magazine. 

It is understood that under the NHS England instructions, at least 5% of all callers must be given the option of booking an in-hours GP appointment following contact with an NHS 111 clinician, if a GP appointment is deemed to be necessary.

Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have told Pulse that they have been asked to meet the 5% target by December 2017, with the target growing to 30% by April 2019.

NHS England has not confirmed how the target will be enforced, or whether there is any money attached to it, but it follows pilots elsewhere in the country that were set up to further NHS England’s ‘Integrated Urgent Care Policy.

NHS England would not comment directly on the details of the national target, but responding to Pulse’s inquiry, a spokesperson said: ‘For those patients who call 111 and are assessed by a clinician (not just by a call handler) as needing a GP practice appointment it makes sense to be able to book that directly.

‘The ability of a 111 GP, nurse or paramedic to accurately assess whether a person needs a practice appointment is likely to compare well with the alternative of an equivalent judgement having to be made by the practice’s own receptionist, especially if this then occurs some time later when the patient may already have just decided to head to A&E.’

GPs say there is still ‘scepticism’ over how NHS 111 direct booking to in-hours GP appointments will effect workload and any target will have to be included in this year’s GP contract if it is to succeed.