New GP services are expected to open in the North West of England as well as extra family practices, walk-in sexual health centres and family planning services.
Health minister Andy Burnham today announced plans to help around 55,000 thousand patients get easier access to family doctors and sexual health clinics.
Places expected to benefit will be Ashton Leigh and Wigan, Bolton, East Lancashire, Manchester and Trafford, with other areas also set to join the programme in the coming months. The contracts for the new services will run for an initial five years, with the potential to extend for longer.
The "Fairness in Primary Care Procurement" programme is expected to provide patients with better access to a family doctor, and more choice of GP, including flexible opening hours and extended services, such as minor surgery. All local residents will have the choice to access any new services.
New services being planned in each of the five areas include:
Andy Burnham said: "GPs are largely providing a good service, but there are still areas where NHS patients cannot rely on traditional practices. We want to continue to help the NHS plug these remaining gaps by introducing these new services, reducing the pressure on existing practices and giving patients the choice they deserve."
Although there is no national shortage of GPs, towns and cities with the most GPs have more than double the least. All the five areas involved in this next wave of the programme currently have significantly fewer GPs per person than the national average of 57.9 GPs per 100,000 people (Ashton Leigh and Wigan 45.1; Bolton 54.8; Trafford 51.5; Manchester 47.8; East Lancashire 46.7). The Department of Health (DH) aims to bring these areas up to at least the national average.
The DH-led procurement will provide the local NHS with access to resources and expertise. The department will centrally manage the procurement process for primary care trusts (PCTs), while PCTs will own, manage and sign-off their local contracts.
Over the coming months, the department will work with further PCTs with the fewest GPs for their populations, as identified in the white paper, as well as other relatively underdoctored or Spearhead PCTs, to invite new providers to deliver extra local services.
The programme aims to attract a broad range of providers, from existing entrepreneurial GPs to social enterprises and corporate independent providers.
Advertisements will appear in both the national and local media from the end of June to help ensure that the full range of potential providers are aware of the programme, including local GPs.
New services are expected to open to patients by Spring 2008.