A new plan from NHS England will see clinical commissioning groups expected to extend GP access in the evening.
This will be delivered for an extra £6 per patient from April 2019, but the healthcare body has also stated that weekend opening should depend on local demand.
The announcement is the first detailed account of how NHS England intends to fulfil the mandate made by government to provide weekend and evening access for general practice.
As part of this process, total recurrent funding will reach £138 million by 2017/18 and £258 million by 2018/19, according to NHS England plans.
An early indication is that surgeries will be required to commission an extra 90 minutes of evening appointments.
The GP Forward View has pledged that by 2020/21 over £500 million in additional funding on an annual basis will enable CCGs to commission “access to GP services, including sufficient routine appointments at evenings and weekends to meet locally determined demand, alongside effective access to out of hours and urgent care services”.
This latest announcement contributes “to the overall ambition of investing an extra £2.4bn in general practice services by 2020/21” that was pledged by the GP Forward View.
The £6 per head funding will be made available to GP surgeries during the existing financial year, and it is hoped that this will be extended to additional sites over the following 12-month period.
Elsewhere, the new NHS England document indicates that clinical commissioning groups will be required to ensure the sustainability of general practice by the 2018/19 financial year.
This will include plans to extend capacity in practices, increasing the number of GPs, co-funding pharmacists to work in general practice, expanding IAPT with more primary care-based therapists, investing in training practice staff, extending online consultations and supporting GP practices to work at scale as MCPs or PACS.
Commenting on the issue, Dr Arvind Madan, NHS England’s director of primary care, indicated his hope that the announcement will play a part in assisting the beleaguered General practice system.
“We know that general practice is under pressure and we are determined to maintain the momentum in turning things around, as started with the launch of the General Practice Forward View. Today’s planning guidance, with detail on how investment will look in the coming years, demonstrates the steps we will be taking with CCGs to both stabilise and transform GP services in the years to come, for the benefit of staff and patients”.
But GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey was less positive about the proposals.
“It appears that NHS England have learnt from the lessons of many of the pilots which showed that there was little demand from patients for routine weekend appointments. There is importantly now no requirement to be open 8-8 on Saturdays and Sundays, with flexibility based on local needs. It is sensible that extended hours appointments will also be available for urgent appointments”.
But Vautrey did welcome the planning guidance which will require clinical commissioning groups to ensure that key messages in the GP Forward View are indeed implemented.
“This is vital at a time when general practice is overwhelmed by unsustainable workload pressures leading to GP burnout and practice closures”.