Hunt promises to release GP time to 'support urgent care services'
The Department of Health has indicated that the QOF reporting period is to be 'extended until April' to allow GPs to support under pressure urgent care services.
In a statement in Parliament, health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced a series of proposals to support secondary care services, including 'releasing time for GPs to support urgent care work'.
The DH later wrote in a tweet that this would include extending the QOF reporting period until April. However, it later deleted the tweet and it was unclear whether the reporting period would be extended, and until when, considering the deadline is usually 31 March.
Other measures announced by Mr Hunt included suspending elective care and non-urgent outpatient appointments where necessary.
He also said that the Tuesday after Christmas was the 'busiest day in the history of the NHS'.
It comes as the BMA has said the situation in hospitals is reaching 'dangerous levels', and blamed the Government for the ‘unacceptable absence of additional funding for health and social care in the autumn statement’.
Mr Hunt said: 'With further cold weather on the way this weekend, a spike in respiratory infections, and a rise in flu there will be further challenges ahead.
'So NHS England and NHS Improvement will also consider a series of further measures which may be taken in particularly distressed systems on a temporary basis, at the discretion of local clinical leaders.
'These may include: temporarily releasing time for GPs to support urgent care work; clinically triaging non-urgent calls to the ambulance service for residents of nursing and residential homes, before they’re taken to hospital; continuing to suspend elective care, including where appropriate suspension of non-urgent outpatient appointments.'
The DH's twitter feed added that this would include extending the QOF reporting period:
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The British Red Cross announced on Friday that it had been deployed to hospitals and ambulance services to cope with what the chief executive Mike Adamson called a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in the NHS.
Dr Mark Porter, chair of BMA Council, said: ‘This intervention from the Red Cross highlights the enormous pressure the NHS is currently facing as conditions in hospitals across the country are reaching a dangerous level.
'The Government should be ashamed that it has got the point where volunteers have been necessary to ease the burden.’
He added that the 'unacceptable absence of additional funding for health and social care in the Autumn statement has only further exacerbated the crisis'.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine, which warned last week that only 77.62% of patients were seen within the four hour target in the previous week, also denied that official discussions had taken place with the Government over 'extra funding for Emergency Medicine', despite what some reports today 'imply'.
But RCGP chair Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard said general practice was already 'working flat' to cope with the pressures during the winter period and would need more drastic measures to help.
She said: 'General practice has a history of emergency preparedness plans ready to activate in times of crisis, such as during flu pandemics. We urge the Secretary of State and clinical leaders to take sensible decisions based on those measures - such as temporary suspension of GP appraisals, QOF targets and CQC inspections - so that all of our time, expertise and effort is directed where it is needed most, at the frontline of patient care.'