News from the Government is that patients at all general practices across England will soon benefit from new digital phonelines, designed to make booking GP appointments easier.

Involving a £240 million investment, more than one thousand practices have signed up to make the switch from analogue systems which can leave patients on hold and struggling to book an appointment – to modern, easy-to-use digital telephones designed to make sure people can receive the care they need when they need it.

It is expected every practice in the country will have the new system in place by the end of this financial year helping put an end to the 8am rush.

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, see care navigators direct calls to the right professional and the use of online systems will provide more options and help those who prefer to call to get through. So-called ‘care navigators’ will triage calls. They will help assess, prioritise, respond and assist with calls and ensure those who want to see a named GP or preferred member of staff can do so and those happy to see a duty doctor can also do so.

The government has also committed up to £645 million to better utilise community pharmacies. A consultation will soon be launched to enable registered pharmacy technicians to supply and administer medicines helping them take on more responsibility and speed up the dispensing of medicines to patients.

A second consultation is also being launched looking at how dental hygienists and therapists can be better supported to provide additional care to patients and reduce unnecessary delays. This is ahead of a dental recovery plan which is due to be announced shortly.