GPs will be named and shamed if they fail to deliver enough face-to-face appointments under a revolutionary plan to improve patient care.
Sajid Javid's nine-point plan, launched last night, will also see family doctors offered an extra £250million to improve access to healthcare.
The Health Secretary today defended the proposals, which will give patients the right to demand face-to-face appointments. GPs will be told they should only refuse the requests if there are good clinical reasons.
He said: 'This whole package today is about support. This is all about helping GPs so that they can do what they do best, which is seeing their patients.'
But unions today warned that the plans would trigger a wave of retirements. Doctors can retire with annual pensions worth £100,000 or more.
A GP from Shropshire blasted the plans as 'insulting', and urged Mr Javid to visit her surgery to show her where efficiencies could be made.
Responding to the request, the Health Secretary said he spends a lot of time in surgeries and would 'certainly look' at visiting hers. He thanked all GPs for their 'phenomenal work' throughout the pandemic.
He also admitted that he does not have a target for face-to-face appointments, and insisted there would be no league tables naming and shaming practices.
But Whitehall sources last night acknowledged that the data would allow for the creation of local and national league tables, with the worst performers named and shamed in the media.
The plans are a victory for the Mail's Let's See GPs Face to Face campaign. The Health Secretary, Boris Johnson and new NHS chief Amanda Pritchard all paid tribute to the Mail for highlighting the devastating decline in face-to-face appointments.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured) today defended his plans for improving access to GPs. Patients will now be able to demand face-to-face appointments, with surgeries only able to refuse if there is a good medical reason
The number of GP appointments taking place face-to-face tumbled at the start of the pandemic when surgeries were told to see patients remotely where possible. But despite vaccination rates it is yet to climb back to pre-pandemic levels. The above graph shows the number of face-to-face GP appointments (red line) by month since the end of 2019
Mr Javid confirmed GPs will be offered £250million in funding to help improve patient access
In a round of interviews this morning Mr Javid defended his plans for improving access to GP surgeries.
He told Sky News: 'I think it is going to help because it will provide more support, financial support, remove red tape, spread the workload and provide more direct support to practices that ask for more expert advice.'
Under the new proposals, patients will be given the right to demand a face-to-face appointment with their family doctor.
GPs will be told they should refuse a plea to have an in-person consultation only if there are good clinical reasons.
The NHS England 'Plan for GPs and Patients' will give practices £250 million of extra cash to take on more staff, ensuring patients can have an appointment on the day they request one. This could include extending opening hours.
But they will not be able to access the extra money if too many of their consultations are carried out over the telephone or online.
New 'transparency' rules will also publish data on the level of service offered by individual GP practices, including the level of access for patients seeking face-to-face appointments.
Whitehall sources acknowledged the data would allow the creation of local and national league tables, with the worst performers named and shamed in the media.
GP practices which fail to improve access for patients will face direct intervention from teams of NHS trouble-shooters.
To help doctors improve their service, red tape will be slashed to give GPs more time to see patients in person – and telephone systems will be upgraded to make it easier to book an appointment.
Meanwhile, pharmacists will get enhanced powers to treat a wide range of minor complaints to ease the pressure.
The Department of Health will reduce administrative burdens on GPs by reforming who can provide medical evidence and certificates such as fit notes and DVLA checks – freeing up time for more appointments.
And officials will today confirm that GP surgeries can scrap the two-metre social distancing rule imposed during the pandemic, which has dramatically reduced numbers in waiting rooms.
However, last night there were signs the plans would spark a row with doctors' unions and some frontline GPs.
Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the British Medical Association's GP Committee, said the proposals would make appointments harder to book and the Government was 'out of touch'.
He said it was disappointing to see there was 'no end in sight to the preoccupation with face-to-face appointments' – and demanded an end to 'target-driven, payment-by-results'.
Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said there was 'nothing here to address the long-standing workforce pressures facing general practice'.
But he cautiously welcomed plans to slash bureaucracy. 'GPs go into medicine to care for patients, yet they spend a significant amount of their time on box-ticking and filling forms,' he said.
'This bureaucracy has an impact on workload in general practice, which has become increasingly 'undoable' and is leading to many GPs, and other members of the team, burning out or leaving the profession.
Last night the Prime Minister praised the Mail for highlighting the collapse in face-to-face appointments over the past two years.
Mr Johnson said: 'The Mail's campaign on this issue has shown the importance of everyone having the choice and ability to see their GP face to face, and this plan will mean more appointments at more surgeries.' Writing for the Mail, Mr Javid said he was determined to get the NHS 'closer to pre-pandemic levels of face-to-face appointments'.
Mrs Pritchard thanked the Mail for acting as 'a strong voice for patients', adding that there would also be a new effort to tackle abuse against GPs.
The nine-point plan came as a YouGov poll found that two-thirds of people prefer a face-to-face appointment.
The Nine Commandments...and what they really mean
By Shaun Wooller for the Daily Mail
The Daily Mail launched its campaign to improve access to GPs after being inundated with horrifying stories from readers who struggled to be seen in person.
The revolution it has brought about is an extraordinary achievement that will undoubtedly benefit patients and the NHS. Today's new NHS England and Department of Health blueprint will help ensure all five points of the Mail's original manifesto for change are delivered.
It will improve access to GPs, get patients and doctors back into face-to-face contact more often and boost safety.
Here are the nine key points of today's announcement – and what they mean:
1 Patients' right to face-to-face appointments
What they're announcing: Health officials have made it clear that every GP practice must ask patients what form they would like their appointment to take.
What it means:
Doctors must respect preferences for face-to-face care unless there are good clinical reasons to the contrary – for example, if the patient has Covid.
This means surgeries can no longer fob people off with a remote consultation if they want to be in the same room as their medic.
People can still choose to have their appointment on the phone or by video if it is more convenient.
Under the Government's new nine-point plan, family doctors must respect their patient's preferences for face-to-face care unless there are good clinical reasons to the contrary
Conducting appointments in-person will allow doctors to spot symptoms they could not have detected remotely and improve the patient-doctor relationship.
Elderly and vulnerable patients who lacked the technology needed for remote consultations or struggled to use it will no longer feel excluded.
2 More money for more appointments
What they're announcing: A £250million winter access fund will let practices offer more appointments so patients who need care can get it – on the same day, if needed.
What it means:
The money will pay for locums and other health professionals, such as physiotherapists and podiatrists, with a focus on increasing capacity.
Surgeries will be encouraged to extend opening hours or operate walk-in clinics, making it easier for patients to be seen quickly at a convenient time.
A £250million winter access fund, announced by the Government today, will let practices offer more appointments so patients who need care can get it - on the same day if needed
3 'Hit squads' and cash penalties to keep GPs on track
What they're announcing: GP practices that fail to improve access will face special measures and be denied a share of additional funding.
What it means:
Poor performers will see specialist 'hit squad' teams sent in to knock them into shape.
This should ensure patients have access to good quality care. Denying surgeries that fail to improve access a share of the new pot of cash will act as an incentive.
4 Better phone systems
What they're announcing: The NHS will help practices upgrade telephone systems to make it easier for patients to book appointments and cut waits to speak to a receptionist.
The Government has also announced the NHS will help practices upgrade telephone systems to make it easier for patients to book appointments and cut waits to speak to a receptionist
What it means:
New technology will make it easier for staff to manage queues. This will