NHS England has pledged an annual £250 million cash injection to renovate GP surgeries if they improve access to healthcare. Entitled the ‘primary care infrastructure fund’, this will be available from April 2015 and, according to The Guardian, is intended to help relieve the pressure on hospitals – and particularly to reduce the number of emergency attendances and admissions to hospital of patients over 75.

To qualify for a share of this fund, England’s 8,500 GP practices must increase the number of appointments they offer, increase patient contact time and improve their care of older patients. Surgeries will also be expected to make much better use of technology to monitor patients’ health as a way of reducing their need to seek direct care from a doctor.

Commenting on the primary care infrastructure fund, Lucie Prothero, associate at Penningtons Manches, said: “We agree that improving access to healthcare at the community level is likely to play a vital part in alleviating the burden on the NHS’s overstretched acute medical services. We also welcome the fact that the qualifying criteria for GP surgeries include a focus on ensuring that elderly care is improved.

“By treating more patients in the community, unnecessary hospital admissions may hopefully be reduced and free up more capacity for the acute medical services to properly care for those in greatest need. However, this must also be seen in the context of the significant funding squeeze on social care which is badly affecting our ageing population. Funding must also be directed to community care so that older patients can receive the support they need to stay living as healthily and safely in their homes as possible.”