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Independents' Day

Operating framework heralds renewed push on extended opening hours

By Gareth Iacobucci

PCTs have been ordered to commission additional GP services in areas where practices are not offering extended hours.

The NHS Operating Framework for 2010/11 says the drive to improve access must remain high on trusts' agenda, despite the need to focus on making efficiency savings to weather the financial crisis.

It instructs PCTs which still have some local GP practices not providing extended hours to commission other services that will provide patients with better access.

The instruction runs alongside the Government's proposal to abolish the current system of GP boundaries, to allow patients to register at practices further away from where they live.

PCTs are also told to closely monitor the services being offered at new GP health centres and APMS practices, to ensure they are delivering sufficiently ‘effective and innovative services' for improving access.

The operating framework says: ‘Patients should be able to choose a GP practice offering extended access to evening and weekend appointments. Every PCT should ensure that they continue to make progress in ensuring that the availability of these services matches local needs.'

‘In particular, in so far as some local practices are not providing extended opening, PCTs should commission other services that secure commensurate benefits.'

The framework has granted PCTs an overall 5.5% increase in allocations for 2010/1, to ensure the NHS is on ‘a firm financial footing' to try and meet the stiff challenges set out.

But hospitals will receive less than a third of the tariff price for any emergency activity above 2008/9 levels in a bid to create a system that incentivises the shift of care out of hospital settings.

The plan reiterates the pledge for all NHS organisations to reduce overheads and management costs by 30% - first announced last week in the NHS's new five year plan - while at the same time vowing to tighten the screw on trusts that are underperforming in World Class Commissioning.

A DH spokesman said: ‘We will protect front-line NHS spending for the following two years to 2012/13, but standing still will not be an option: demand for services and patients' expectations will increase, as will advances in medical technology and innovation.'

Dr Michael Dixon, chairman of NHS Alliance, welcomed the changes to national tariffs. He said: ‘The outcomes of a change in tariff could be very positive indeed. In those areas where PBR has been thought to inflate costs, some trusts will be able to offer considerably under tariff and thus benefit patients and the taxpayer.'

Extended hours

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