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GP practices to be asked to open on Easter Saturday

GP practices will be asked to open up on Easter Saturday morning for routine appointments as part of ‘resilience’ plans for the NHS over the Bank Holiday weekend.

NHS England wrote to all CCGs to ‘reinforce the importance’ of producing ‘robust demand and capacity plans’ over the Easter weekend, with ‘emphasis specifically on… routine GP surgery capacity on the Saturday morning on the Bank Holiday weekend’.

The letter – which was also signed by Monitor, the Trust Development Authority and directors of adult social services – said there needed to be ‘continuing operational resilience’ even after the winter period because A&E standards were not being met.

It comes after NHS managers asked GPs to work on New Year’s Day in some areas because of fears over winter pressures.

GP leaders said that the system has previously been able to cope with normal services, and that this Easter should be no different ‘even though it falls a few weeks before an election’.

The letter was sent to all CCG accountable officers and chief executives of hospital trusts, and set out a range of plans that health authorities should be in place.

It said: ‘We are writing to you as we reach the end of winter and look ahead to continuing operational resilience through the next holiday period and into 2015/16. Over recent months we have seen a decline in our delivery against the four hour A&E standard… We expect every effort to be made to return to this standard in April.’

It added: ‘For this public holiday in particular… (we) would like to reinforce the importance of all organisations producing robust demand and capacity plans for the Easter period.’

The letter listed particular areas that should be emphasised, including: ‘Routine GP surgery capacity on the Saturday morning on the Bank Holiday weekend; sufficient capacity provided in GP OOH services;  NHS 111 staffing capacity increases to cope with potential surges in demand; sufficient capacity across primary care (including pharmacy and dentistry).’

This winter, a number of measures were put in place because the NHS was having trouble coping, with emergency departments particularly affected.

In Essex, Pulse reported that GPs were asked to open on New Year’s Day to help clear the backlog of patients as hospitals fared badly under during the Christmas and New Year period.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC, said that GPs are successful at managing demand.

He said: ‘Practices and out-of-hours organisations successfully manage demand both leading up to, during and after holiday periods on a regular basis and this should be no different for Easter, even though it falls a few weeks before an election. 

‘Some CCGs have provided resources for some practices to provide additional appointments over the holiday period but at a time of acute pressure on the GP workforce they need to be careful that encouraging practices to do more does not undermine the capacity of their local OOH organisation as GPs who would normally do sessions for them work for practices instead.’

Readers' comments (62)

  • This is the "leaked letter to GPs!

    Dear GP Practice
    OFFICIAL MESSAGE from NHS ENGLAND

    We insist you "open up" on Easter Bank Holiday.
    In return, we will unilaterally set your reimbursement and terms at "sub-cost" ie less than you will have to pay you staff who unsurprisingly will demand "double time" minimum. If you don't do as we say for "sub cost" then we will make up bogus stories and feed them to our political "partner" THE DAILY MAIL, our "proxy" that we use to "secretly" attack you into submission.

    Your Sincerely (and happy Easter)

    Jeremy Hunt and NHS England

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  • This comment has been moderated.

  • Good will has gone at any cost.

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  • Go forth and multiply ; but not in those words

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  • Two finger rampant from me Im afraid.Irreversible break down of working relationship with NHSE+ HMG

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  • Ditto the above.

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  • Sorry, could you reimburse my plane tickets please !!

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  • Defy and sue.....no Court in this country will exonerate NHSE for this. It is not a question of 'public good' here because if it is then why has it not been practiced all along - and NHSE should be held responsible for this and pay compensation to any and everybody who has had problems accessing medical help on Bank holidays for the last 5 years. This is bullying of 'self employed' profession who have a right to say NO if it can cause serious physical or mental stress and should end up in a Tribunal.
    GPC must take a lead on this or acknowledge they are not fit for purpose.
    Or is it another political gimmick of NHSE- the right arm of the Tory government ?

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  • The fixed fee for any activity outside of core hours should include repayment of the 6% of total income declined to be absolved of responsibility for the period under the 2004 contract, plus full coverage of all associated expenditure with clinican and support staff remuneration at at bank holiday rates.
    That will not be the offer so don't even think about it.

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  • One might naively assume that improving access to a GP out-of-hours was essentially an issue for the GP out-of-hours service.

    But apparently not.

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  • Peter Swinyard

    My surgery will be open on Easter Saturday if:
    1. staff cost and on-costs reimbursed at double time
    2. GP costs paid at what I would have to pay for a locum (£700-£800 per day round here)
    3. MPIG reinstated
    4. Seniority reinstated
    5. Resources in General Practice restored to 11% NHS budget
    6. Micromanagement of my business by NHSE, DoH, CQC and all the other stormtroopers ceases.

    No, I thought not.

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