BRITS will finally be able to escape the dreaded “8am scramble” to bag a doctor’s appointment as major changes are rolled out.
The move means people will no longer be met by the frustrating engaged tone during the early morning rush to secure a slot.
More than 1,000 practices across the country have signed up for the upgrade, which will come into force from March next year.
The switch to the hi-tech system has been backed by a £240million investment from the government that was announced in May.
It comes under the umbrella of the Primary Care Recovery Plan, which aims to tackle some of the pressures draining GP surgeries.
The new dial-up process is also set to banish the brutally annoying engaged tone or “please try again later” request, as online systems provide them with more options.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “We are delivering on our promises to make access to GP appointments easier while boosting staffing numbers.
“With the support of NHS England, general practices, pharmacies and dental surgeries, backed by significant investment from the Government, we will bring an end to the 8am scramble for appointments.”
It comes as new figures suggest one in six people have waited at least two weeks to see a GP in England in the past year.
The Government says it is making progress on the Primary Care Recovery Plan, with talks ongoing with NHS England and pharmaceutical companies.
Consultations are set to be launched to discuss relieving the stress on GP surgeries by redirecting patients to other health services.
This includes exploring the possibility of giving dental hygienists and pharmacy technicians more power to prescribe certain medicines.
Health minister Neil O’Brien said the Government wants to “make sure we are making the best use of skilled professionals” while “freeing up dentists and pharmacists to carry out vital services”.
He added: “We have so much skill and experience within our surgeries and pharmacies and by better using technology, transferring services and cutting bureaucracy we will have a more efficient and effective service.”
Another idea is to allow women to access oral contraception through pharmacies, rather than their doctor.
As well as this, patients who require prescription drugs for seven common conditions, such as earache or shingles, would be able to get them without a GP appointment.
Blood pressure checks at local pharmacies will also be expanded.
Dr Kiren Collison, a GP and interim medical director for primary care at NHS England, said: “GP teams are already treating record numbers of patients but we are determined to improve access further, which is why it is fantastic that all GP practices will be upgrading their telephone systems to make it as easy as possible for patients to contact their practice.
“The NHS is also offering people more convenient options in how they access care, with pharmacies playing a central role in managing the nation’s health, and the pharmacy consultation announced today will help ensure that more staff can provide lifesaving checks and medication on the high street.”