Bank holiday: What GP practices will have to provide over Easter
NHS England has outlined what services and opening hours will be required on Good Friday and Easter Monday
Bank holiday preparations – access to primary care services
COVID-19 demands are anticipated to be at their highest so far in many areas, with increasing care needs for our population and impact on staff. We have previously asked for primary care to align with the rest of the NHS, and to treat the Easter bank holiday as a normal working day. This will be no normal weekend, as you will have anticipated. Local Resilience Forums (LRFs) are working to maximise capacity right across the system. Thank you in advance for your support.
Necessary changes to GP contract regulations now mean Friday 10 April (Good Friday) and Monday 13 April (Easter Monday) are defined as core hours, meaning they are normal working days for general practice, as they are for the whole NHS system.
Patients with COVID-19 symptoms will continue to be advised to use NHS 111 online as the first port of call. Our expectations for general practice services on these days are that:
- all GP practices will be open (available) in line with core hours. The exception to this is when alternative arrangements have been agreed in advance with your clinical commissioning group (CCG) e.g. where a primary care network (PCN) ensures availability to meet anticipated demand within core hours. Transferring calls to NHS 111 will not be an option.
- remote triage will be available for delivering care and treatment wherever possible and appropriate.
- patients identified at highest risk from COVID-19 and who have been advised to shield will continue to receive proactive clinical management support.
- any essential face-to-face services (including home visits) that may be required will need to be delivered in line with the GP Standard Operating Procedures.
We recognise that this short notice change presents challenges for you and your staff (including childcare difficulties, although you may wish to check if schools/nurseries for key workers in your areas are available as usual). Practices should discuss with their local CCG the level of service required on the bank holiday, and agree what staff cover is needed.
CCGs, working with their LRFs, will need to take a system wide view of available services, particularly when considering the need for any alternative arrangements (e.g. cover by a PCN member practice) and the reciprocal impact on Extended access hub/Integrated Urgent Care/Out of Hours services that had otherwise been planned. Planned in-hours cover may be adjusted to reflect these services. The Directory of Services should be updated with the practice availability.
National patient facing communications will confirm the availability of GP services on these days but we are asking you and CCGs to use your usual channels to alert patients to the changes locally so they know how they can contact your (or a nearby) practice on these days where appropriate.
GP practices open on Good Friday or Easter Monday will be able to seek reimbursement for additional staffing costs. Further costs incurred as a result of the pandemic will be addressed in due course.
Practices should discuss with their local CCG the level of service required on bank holidays, based on the need for care and local capacity and agree in advance what additional staffing will be reimbursed. CCGs are responsible for reimbursing practices and will be reimbursed themselves at standard national rates, which will be confirmed this week.
Source: NHS England news bulletin to practices sent on 7 April