PATIENTS in Gwent should benefit this year from a share of millions of pounds of extra funding for GP services, as part of an all-Wales investment.

The extra money - £25m - follows the successful conclusion of negotiations for the 2019/20 General Medical Services (GMS) contract, which is worth more than £536m in total.

Increasing emphasis is being put on Wales' GP 'clusters' or Neighbourhood Care Networks (NCNs) - area groups of GP practices typically serving combined populations of 30-50,000 - to provide enhanced services for patients at or close to home.

Gwent has 12 NCNs, three each across Newport and Caerphilly, and two each covering Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen and Monmouthshire.

Of the new money, £9.2m is intended to help implement new standards for in-hours access to GP services in Wales, revealed in March, one of the key aims of which is to ensure prompt telephone responses by practices to patients' calls, and ensuring patients do not have to call back multiple times.

Linked to this is more than £3.7m to fund the infrastructure needs of practices in working towards achievement of the aforementioned access standards.

And up to £5m will be made available to try to stimulate partnership working as the preferred model for General Medical Services, and to encourage new GPs to take up partner roles in practices.

The extra funding will mean an increase per patient in Wales compared to the current contract, from £86.75 to £90. This latest value per patient sum is more than that offered in England.

“This agreement provides an additional boost to GMS services and once again represents a better deal than that being offered in England," said health minister Vaughan Gething.

"The new contract delivers the much needed investment into services to improve sustainability and to meet the aims set out in A Healthier Wales (the Welsh Government's 10-year strategy for the NHS in Wales), including an increased focus on cluster working and seamless provision of services.”