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Government scraps extended opening hours audit

The Government has been forced into an embarrassing climbdown over its plan to audit practice opening hours, with many PCTs abandoning the exercise in the face of widespread opposition from GPs.

The Department of Health had demanded PCTs collect detailed information on existing GP opening times, to ensure practices taking up the Extended Access DES offered ‘genuinely additional' appointments.

In February, practices were warned they were ‘contractually obliged' to take part in the audit, and told that if they refused, they would ‘not be able to sign up to the DES'.

But after seeking legal advice, the BMA urged GPs to boycott the audit, arguing there was ‘no clear precedent' for the request.

Now many PCTs have dropped the audit altogether, according to LMC leaders. Surrey and Sussex LMC reported that ‘most' of its PCTs had now withdrawn the demands to complete detailed baseline templates, while Wessex LMCs said PCT managers in its area had also been convinced to drop the request.

Dr Andrew Mostyn, medical director of Wessex LMCs, said: ‘Basically there's an understanding you can't give an audit of appointments in any given day, because it changes from day to day and week to week, depending on sickness, holiday and locums, whatever it might be.

‘So actually I think there's a recognition that it didn't make much sense anyway.'

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said the audit had been ‘suggested' to PCTs in January in order to ensure that in-hours services were not reduced as a result of extended opening.

‘It is up to PCTs to decide if the extended opening hours that practices propose to offer meet the criteria for the DES,' she added.

The Government have been forced to abandon their plans to audit practice opening hours Practice opening hours

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