GOOD primary care is the foundation of an effective health system for patients and is the way that most people experience the NHS. Improving general practice supports the early identification of serious illnesses and the management of chronic conditions, while also helping people to live healthier lives.

As a part of the Government’s Primary Care Recovery Plan, more than 1,000 GP practices have signed up in principle to transition from analogue to digital telephone systems by next March – including 7 in the Forest of Dean. This is being backed up by a £240 million investment and will enable practices to manage demand more effectively.

Patients will be able to contact their general practice more easily and quickly – and find out exactly how their request will be handled on the day they call rather than being told to call back later. If their need is urgent, they will be assessed and given appointments on the same day. If it is not urgent, appointments should be offered within two weeks, or patients will be referred to NHS 111 or a local pharmacy.

The upgraded system will bring an end to the engaged tone and see calls directed to the right professional, while the use of online systems will provide more options and help those who prefer to call to get through. These changes will put an end to the 8:00 am rush many of us have experienced when phoning our local GP surgery, which can often leave patients struggling to book an appointment.

Progress is also being made on other aspects included in the Primary Care Recovery Plan. Already, there are 53 more doctors, nurses and other patient care staff working in general practice across the Forest when compared to 2019 levels. This includes roles such as dispensers, health care assistants, phlebotomists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, podiatrists, therapists and others.

This work builds on the increase in primary care we have seen in our area during my time as the Forest’s MP. For example, in 2020, I welcomed the opening of the new Cinderford Medical Centre on Valley Road, which houses both Dockham Surgery and Forest Health Care. In addition, in the Spring of 2024, building work is expected to begin on Coleford’s new Medical Centre. This facility is the result of the merger between Coleford Family Doctors and the Brunston and Lydbrook Practice and will bring much-needed, modern and spacious healthcare facilities to Coleford.

This Conservative Government is continuing to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to the NHS – investing both nationally and locally to provide the backing it needs and deliver for patients.

Contact me: [email protected] | | House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA | @Mark_J_Harper |