The Covid strain: Illness, isolation and staff shortages – the Winter Access Fund may not tackle the cause but it can ease the symptoms (3-minute read).

In October of last year, we published an article on NHS England and NHS Improvement’s Patient Access Blueprint, which detailed ways to see improvements for patients and GP Surgeries. With the recent increase in cases of COVID-19 due to the Omicron variant, we feel it is more important than ever to take advantage of the benefits that cloud-based technology can bring to your surgery.

The Winter Access Fund

On page 8 of the Patient Access Blueprint (you can read the full document here) the benefits of hosted solutions are outlined, as surgeries rapidly take them on to help manage the increasing pressures of the pandemic. We’d like to draw your attention back to the following sections:

19. During the emergency response to the pandemic and subsequent recovery, practices continue to face an unprecedented increase in demand across all digital and communication channels, including telephony. With increasing Our plan for improving access for patients and supporting general practice volumes of telephone contacts there has been a significant strain on older analogue technology. For patients and reception staff alike, this can be a source of huge frustration.

20. An estimated one-quarter of practices have already moved to cloud-based telephony. As well as providing more phone lines for inbound and outbound calls, and automated queuing, cloud-based systems can provide data about patient demand to help give feedback about current performance and inform practices about the level of administrative support they need for call-handling.

21. NHS England will enable and drive full adoption of cloud-based telephony across all practices, as rapidly as possible. This could include – subject to value for money – a short-term national solution available for all practices to deploy by the end of the year. This would precede a longer-term supplier framework, to support local deployment of cloud-based products as existing local contracts expire.

A £250 million Winter Access Fund was made available to surgeries to improve patient access across the board. As demonstrated above, this includes offering support in the move towards hosted solutions. This is great news – we have already helped over 200 sites benefit from the switch to cloud-based telephony and we’re here to help those who are yet to take those next steps.

However, this fund is only accessible until March 2022, meaning there is limited time left to take advantage. 

Limited GP services

Over the 2021 festive period, the country saw an increase in COVID-19 cases, with the daily average of new positive tests standing at around 141,000. Due to the rapid spread of the virus, a significant number of NHS workers are being forced to remain absent from work whilst they isolate, even though they are in good health. If they had the means to support their colleagues and/or patients from home, they could assist in easing the mounting strain on the surgery.

Increasing demand for UK healthcare – and the resulting pressure on organisations to manage it – is a well-known issue. Subsequently, staff shortages are causing a massive strain on surgeries and negatively impacting the patient experience as wait times increase, appointments get cancelled and the overall quality of the patient care suffers – but this doesn’t have to be the case!

How we can help

The healthcare division of our business, Premier Patient Line, provides specialist telephony and broader technology solutions to GP surgeries, CCGs and PCNs; supercharging practice efficiency and streamlining patient access across the UK. Our services facilitate remote access, allowing surgeries to close their doors to protect staff and patients whilst keeping phone lines open, as staff can work from wherever they need to.

All of this, alongside the PSTN Switch Off, drives the adoption of cloud-based telephony solutions. There are many variations when applying cloud solutions and our bespoke packages are hand-picked to meet the varied needs of each customer. The products in this area help to bring surgery stress down, improve the patient experience and enable your practice to continue prioritising healthcare, and the benefits include:

  • Minimal/negligible upfront costs
  • Fast and easy set-up
  • Simple to manage and use
  • Enable flexible and remote working
  • Converge into one manageable environment
  • Connect devices with consistent interfaces
  • Multi-site deployment
  • Built-in business continuity/disaster recovery
  • Bespoke functionality for each user
  • Call analytics and reporting
  • Call recording
  • 24x7x365 network monitoring
  • Integration with all major clinical CRMs (e.g. EMISweb, Vision, SystmOne etc.)
  • Guaranteed line out
  • All the functionality of the Contact Wizard (eg. Intelligent Routing, automated front-of-queue ring-back, automatic campaign dialling etc.)
  • Immediate new feature upgrades
  • Minimal requirements for IT resources
  • Support options
  • Transparent pricing

There are a whole host of features to choose from and these can be applied at license level, meaning you can select the features you need for only those who need them.

What next?

We are more than happy to help you discuss your solution and ways to keep your surgery phones open even if the doors must be closed.

We invite our existing customers to please contact your Account Manager on 020 3900 9495 or by emailing with the subject The Patient Access Blueprint.

If you are not already a customer but would like to discuss your options, please call us on 0800 048 4666 or email with the subject The Patient Access Blueprint. Please do not be put off by the fact that you may be in contract with another supplier as we can still work with you if you wish to make improvements.

Alternatively, you can complete the form below and we will be in touch:

*by submitting this form, you consent to being contacted by Premier Choice Group regarding our products, services and offers that may benefit you. You can opt out at any time. Please see our privacy policy

Please note, in order to take advantage of the Winter Access Fund, you must reach out to your CCG to obtain the support you need, as we are unable to access the funding on your behalf.