GPs are to be given a role in extending NHS Direct, the telephone helpline, which is a key strand in the modernisation of the health service. The third wave roll out of NHS Direct will cover a further 10 million people and bring total coverage to 30 million. Six of the third wave sites will involve GP co-operatives.
NHS Direct and the recently announced 20 pilot walk in clinics are designed to give better access to health care, but at the same time they are causing concern among GPs, who have traditionally been the only form of access. Callers to the helpline and patients visiting clinics with more serious conditions will be advised to consult their GP, but it is argued that those with minor conditions may receive sub standard service. Involving GPs in the alternative forms of access is not only a safeguard, but also a way of securing commitment to change.