Access requirement

Access requirement

From 1 April 2023 the “GP contract will be updated to make clear that patients should be offered an assessment of need, or signposted to an appropriate service, at first contact with the practice. Practices will therefore no longer be able to request that patients contact the practice at a later time”. (Changes to the GP contract in 2023/24)

The regulations changes are detailed below. Please note paragraph 2 does not stipulate the time frame in which a further assessment or appointment is to be offered, it says “at a time which is appropriate and reasonable having regard to all the circumstances”. However, QOF and IIF targets aim to have patients seen within 14 days of contacting the practice. Some practices will be able to achieve this, but if practices cannot, this is not a breach of the contract.

Contact with the practice

The regulations will now say:

  1. The contractor must take steps to ensure that a patient who contacts the contractor by any of the following means is provided with an appropriate response in accordance with the sub-paragraphs 2- 4 below.
  • (a) by attendance at the contractor’s practice premises
  • (b) by telephone
  • (c) through the practice’s online consultation system or
  • (d) through any other available online system.
  1. The appropriate responses the contractor must are:
  • (a) invite the patient for an appointment, either to attend the contractor’s practice premises or to participate in a telephone or video consultation, at a time which is appropriate and reasonable having regard to all the circumstances
  • (b) provide appropriate advice or care to the patient by another method
  • (c) invite the patient to make use of, or direct the patient towards, appropriate services which are available to the patient, including services which the patient may access themselves.
  • (d) communicate with the patient:
    • to request further information
    • to convey when and how the patient will receive further information on the services that may be provided to them, having regard to the urgency of their clinical needs and other relevant circumstances.
  1. The appropriate response must be provided:
  • (a) if the contact under sub-paragraph (1) is made outside core hours or during the following core hours.
  • (b) in any other case, during the surgery period in which that contact is made.
  1. The appropriate response must:
  • (a) not jeopardise the patient’s health.
  • (b) be based on the clinical needs of the patient.
  • (c) take into account the preferences of the patient where appropriate.


Further details are available in this useful GPC guidance.

First Published
13 April 2023
Updated On
1 April 2024
Due to be Reviewed
10 April 2025
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