Firms that do not offer an “appropriate” level of in-person appointments will not be eligible for new NHS funding of £ 250 million.
As part of a new package of measures to improve access, patients will also be able to assess the performance of their practice by SMS.
The NHS said the ‘winter access fund’ will allow GPs to improve appointment availability and increase the number of face-to-face appointments and same-day care.
Other healthcare workers will be given new powers to provide patients with medical documents such as fitness for duty notes or DVLA checks in an attempt to free GPs.
The NHS said GP practices should “respect preferences for face-to-face care, unless there are good clinical reasons to the contrary.”
People will be able to compare the practices of general practitioners thanks to the appointment data that will be published at the practice level by spring to “improve transparency and accountability,” the health service said.
It is not clear how “appropriate levels” of face-to-face care will be defined, but those who fall short of the standard will be offered support to improve.
“Walk-in consultations” could be one of the ways that practices choose to resolve the problem.
GP phone systems will be upgraded to reduce long waits on the phone, social distancing in practices could be changed or reduced, and patients will be able to see nurses, pharmacists and paramedics in GP practices.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I am determined to ensure that patients can see their GP however they want, no matter where they live. “
He said it would “tackle the underperformance, taking the pressure off staff to spend more time with patients.”
Only 58% of GP appointments in England in August were face to face, compared to four in five before the pandemic in August 2019.
The British Medical Association said the plans would not help GPs improve care as they had hoped and described the government as “unaware” of the extent of the crisis.
The chairman of the GP committee, Dr Richard Vautrey, criticized the “preoccupation” with face-to-face appointments and said a hybrid approach was needed.
“GPs across England will be genuinely horrified that this is presented as a lifeline for general medicine when in reality it could completely sink the ship,” he said, warning that a “lack of action” would force many general practitioners to leave the profession.
Professor Martin Marshall, President of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said that “good care can and is delivered at a distance and some patients prefer it”.
The plans mark a significant change from July last year, when Health Secretary Matt Hancock said all initial general practitioner appointments “should be teleconsultations unless they are not. ‘there is a compelling clinical reason not to do so.
The EveryDoctor campaign group, which represents 1,700 British doctors, said earlier Wednesday that ‘it’s a bit of a shock’ GPs have been ‘blamed’ for the number of phone consultations offered to patients when they don’t were only following government directives.
The NHS long-term plan, released in 2019, proposed that all patients be given a ‘digital first’ option to access GP care.
EveryDoctor also expressed concern that the “inflammatory” comments about access to GPs were leading to “abuse” of staff – another issue that will be addressed in the new blueprint through the development of a ” zero tolerance campaign ”.