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Seven-day GP service thrown lifeline by NHS England 'to deliver Tory manifesto'

Exclusive An NHS England regional team has ploughed more money into its seven-day GP access scheme in order to 'keep the service alive' and fulfil the Government’s political manifesto.

Taurus Healthcare, which has run seven-day hubs in Herefordshire since 2014 as part of the first wave of the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund pilots, said it had been promised its service would be ’kept alive’ in a specific bid to fulfil the pledges made.

The Government had always claimed that the schemes would become self-sufficient from April 2016, once savings were realised from a reduction in A&E attendances, with NHS England claiming they had to have 'clear, credible plans for delivering benefits to patients on an ongoing basis, beyond the lifetime of the pilots'.

But Taurus managing director Graeme Cleland told Pulse that the longevity of and size of funding was under discussions and that Taurus is working ‘collaboratively’ with NHS England in ’delivering the manifesto promise’.

He said: 'As things stand at the moment we are focused on, because there is a manifesto promise, we are focused on delivering the manifesto promise and we are working on that actively as we speak.

’What we have been told is that we are working collaboratively to keep the service alive because there’s a manifesto promise and we are committed to providing seven-day primary care services.

‘We’ve been assured there is funding for the interim period whilst we can work out a longer-term solution. It is coming from the centre, from NHS England regionally.’

A spokesperson for NHS Herefordshire CCG said: ’I’m informed that one month of extra funding has been put in place to keep the Taurus hubs open.

’NHS Herefordshire CCG does not know the level of funding because Taurus was originally funded as a national pilot from the Prime Minister’s GP Access Fund and the new money is coming from NHS England.’

David Williams, lead director for primary care for NHS England in the West Midlands, said: 'We are currently working with Taurus looking at the achievements within their pilot and how this could impact on future plans for extended access for patients. Locally we have agreed with Taurus to continue to fund their hub to gain more data and information about how their services benefit patients.'

A Pulse investigation last year found that only three areas in wave one had committed to continue to fund routine seven-day GP appointments after running out of Challenge Fund money.

Pulse also revealed that half of the first wave Challenge Fund areas cut hours in response to a lack of demand from patients - especially on Sundays - before the pilots ended.

The future for seven-day GP appointments

opening hours special report  PPL - online

opening hours special report PPL - online

opening hours special report PPL

The official evaluation of the Challenge Fund pilots released late last year supported Pulse’s evidence that there was little demand for Sunday GP appointments from patients.

But despite this, the Government has continued to push on with its manifesto plans for all patients across England to be able to book routine GP appointments every day of the week by 2020.

During 2016/17, the Government will draw up a new alternative GP contract for practices with at least 30,000 patients which will offer seven-day access in return for sufficient funding and ‘simpler’ terms and conditions.

The Government is planning to fund this with a 4-5% increase to general practice funding every year until 2020/21.

However, GP leaders have said the Government has to focus on making general practice sustainable five days a week before spreading the service ever thinner, with a seven-day rollout costed by RCGP at £1bn extra per year.

Read more: Wheels come off PM's seven-day GP access drive


Readers' comments (20)

  • And since when did this party ever worry about manifesto promises- Remember 'no top down reoganisation of the health service?'

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  • Hmmm, does Graeme need some media training?

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  • Welcome to the real world Graeme of NHS. 7 day access was never going to be self funding and they will slowly cash starve you until you and the stupid GPs involved finally get the message.

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  • Deliver the service at any cost just because it is the election manifesto - even if it means going over dead bodies and demolishing the very fragment of NHS. Is this what politics is about?
    Or is it absolute lack of flexibility in approach and insight into one's own fallibility.?

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  • Well done I know Taurus has put a lot of working into getting it up and running. For all the usual Pulse moaners don't think this is money that would otherwise be spent on primary care - it would go into the black hole hospital deficits

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  • BTW - NHSE is blind and can't have a clear vision about this service unless it is in dreamland. Would have thought that by now they'd have had a brutal wake up from the soiled and soaked linen.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    I think it is funny. All the quotes read like management speak for "This is a complete goat-fcuk and we are trying to think of a way out that doesn't make us look complete fools."

    April 2016 to be self-funding from savings from reduced ED attendance. Not long to go then, even with 1 month extra money.

    I bet there will be no soundbites from Hunt and Cameron when Taurus hands back the keys!

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  • To anon WHP@10.34
    Writing as one of the perceptive, experienced, realists (perhaps you interpret that as moaning) objections are irrespective of the source and otherwise distribution of the money. It is taxpayers' money, not money available through the generosity of NHSE or the Govt. My objections are to it being spent on bolstering political egos rather than essential medical care. Seven day pilots take resources from general practice and from our OOH services. While extra money is poured into these pilots which cannot be allowed to fail, surgeries are closing through lack of resources. There is a bigger picture.

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  • hard to think of a wonderful comment! Did they really think the funds would continue? They never have & probably never will...

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  • Peter Swinyard

    If my medical practice were based on things which seemed like a good idea at the time, I would spend rather a lot of my time at the GMC's tribunals.
    I try to practice evidence based medicine. There is clearly no evidence based policy. Does anyone even know if Joe Public wants Sunday access - if given the alternative that it defunds other services? Of course if you ask the unlimited rice pudding question "Do you want to be able to see your GP at weekends?" you will get the expected answer. If you asked "Do you mind if your GP practice closes down because it is starved of funds to give you Sunday opening?" you may get a different answer.

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  • Do you remember the survey run by Labour asking very loaded questions about extended access?
    The questions were very loaded - and each had to be answered before moving to the next (I don't remember any possible answers to express satisfaction with the current opening hours!).
    After all that effort on constructing a questionnaire apparently designed to produce the right answer, only 16% wanted extended hours - no consistency in when (earlier, later, Saturday, Sunday, all weekend, Bank Holidays, probably all of above ;-

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  • Vinci Ho

    The sheer arrogance , egregious ambition and stultifying bigotry of Cameton et al are inconceivable . That actually backfire. Look at the so called 'emergency brake' in EU deal , Mr C has 'pleased' nobody including his own kind.....

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  • Wasting public money to save a political party. Sound familiar?

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  • By the same token then there should have been no cooperation by anyone within the NHS with the Health and Social Care Act as it was neither in the Tory Manifesto or the Coalition agreement.

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  • I worked all night Friday and Saturday 11-8 and always started at 10 as the cover before said they started at 7 pm and worn out by 9 pm
    I covered 200-300,000 patients as several doctors were asleep or out and areas overlapped
    I loved the challenge , had a complaint about diarrhoea few hours and no visit. 37 years of this 7 day working .
    Anyone had 7 days work starting from 1977 seeing 60 plus a night
    If you need an opinion one cares...
    The managers did not know me when I offered to return after 60
    Only the doctors called me a legend ...tears to my eyes
    Am I boderah?

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  • For several years I offered appointment weekends and evenings till 8.30 for no extra pay
    Reception were not at all keen.
    Patients even less ....what about coronation or eastenders ?
    Saturday if family day..etc
    My daughter is a teacher ..can she get to a doctor as she is o London tubes 7am and back 7 pm
    What can we offer her?

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  • COI - chair of Taurus -- GP Federation for all 24 Practices in HEREFORDSHIRE.
    We compel no GP to work in our service. We have great patient feedback and last week our 8-8 service was booked at over 90% , including Sundays. Our message is clear - primary care can deliver - just give us the resource.
    Please don't vent your angst on colleagues who are working hard to show primary care can hold its own with other providers.

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  • I have no doubt that the patients like the service provided by Taurus.
    And their service seems to be going down better than many other PMCF schemes - well done.

    But what is it really delivering? At best it is an expensive valve for GP surgeries who cannot provide enough access by themselves (Would be more efficient to provide this within practices). As far as I am aware it has not reduced admissions in the area - otherwise there would be no concerns about funding the service.

    Finally and most importantly, NHSE has a responsibility to spend money in the most efficient way - as decided by those WITHIN NHS England.
    It should not care if it is a conservative plan, labour plan or something that was suggested by a different organisation.
    NHSE are again showing that they cannot be above politics - there is therefore no point in the organisation existing.

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  • NHSE is a firewall for the Department of Health,who do you think they will balme when it hits the fan.The DOH+ SOS accept no culpability they will palm it of to some plebs who ever that may be,NHSE,GPs,consultants,Junior Drs,Patient nurses etc etc.Not the people who are really responsible the mandarins in the DOH,or the SOS.We should know our places!

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  • It would be rash and misleading to give the public seven day GP access and expect the savings from reduced A&E attendances to fund the ongoing project, while at the same time expect routine five day services to remain untouched. It's not been proven, nor do we have the will from government to pledge indefinite funds for this eye catching, vote winning manifesto pledge.

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