Exclusive NHS England will not provide any additional funding for GP practices that choose to remain open next Monday, Pulse has learned.
General Government guidance on the special bank holiday said that granting time off, or offering additional pay for those who work, on the day are ‘a matter for discussion between individuals and their employer’.
GP practices are ‘contractually able to close’ next Monday for the bank holiday announced to mark the Queen’s state funeral, NHS England said yesterday, although it stipulated that Covid booster jabs in care homes should still go ahead.
GPs had reacted with anxiety to the announcement of a last-minute bank holiday, with concerns over what to do about pre-booked appointments, and how to cope with the backlog later in the week if they did close.
Some indicated a wish to remain open but were concerned staff would struggle with childcare, and would expect to be paid extra or have time off in lieu.
In response to queries from Pulse about whether extra funding would be granted, NHS England has now said there will be no national guidance on pay or time off in lieu. Instead, a spokesperson said that it will be up to practices as employers to decide on the specifics of the arrangements.
They also said these were the same processes that apply every bank holiday.
However, GPs in Scotland have been told that staff required to work on the bank holiday ‘will be eligible for the rates of pay and all other terms and conditions applicable on a designated Public Holiday’.
A letter from the Scottish Government today said that it ‘has been agreed to award Health Boards an additional Public Holiday to general practices in their areas’.
It added: ‘Staff required to work on 19 September will be eligible for the rates of pay and all other terms and conditions applicable on a designated Public Holiday.
‘We will work with NHS Directors of Finance to understand the cost implications of this additional bank holiday and the wider response.’
Pulse also asked all ICBs in England whether they would be providing local support to GP practices with regards to the bank holiday, however the majority redirected Pulse to NHS England.
A spokesperson for NHS Greater Manchester ICB confirmed to Pulse that it will not be issuing any additional guidance for practices.
Only one ICB – NHS Black Country ICB – said it is currently working with GPs to determine what any local offer in the Black Country might look like.
GPs warned over the weekend that a bank holiday at short notice is a ‘nightmare’ for practices, suggesting they would have to ‘implore staff to work and pay extra’.
They also warned GPs and staff may struggle to secure last-minute childcare amid school closures.
Wales GP Dr Laura Nourish called it a ‘lose-lose situation’, pointing out that practice staff might ‘expect the day off’ or ‘need paying extra’ for working on a bank holiday.
And Glasgow GP Dr Margaret McCartney said that staff ‘certainly should’ expect the day off or extra pay, ‘as should GPs’.
Surrey GP Dr Dave Triska told Pulse that his practice has been ‘instructed to close’ by the local ICB, but that he ‘certainly wouldn’t be opening’ without additional support to do so.
He said: ‘We’ve been instructed to close, not least of all the short timeframe would be almost impossible to accommodate the shutdown of childcare.
‘I certainly wouldn’t be opening without that support.’
London GP Dr Selvaseelan Selvarajah said: ‘Who will pay for [time-and-a-half] and day in lieu?’ when the Government ‘hasn’t even increased [GP funding] to cover existing cost increases’.
One GP practice, based in Bristol, announced via Twitter that it will remain open for appointments, with staff able to ‘watch the funeral at work’.
The Welsh Government spokesperson told Pulse it has written to ‘all NHS organisations in Wales to outline our expectation that services run in line with normal Bank Holiday arrangements’.
It said this meant ‘ensuring urgent and emergency services are maintained and where workforce allows, continue with planned care services with a particular focus on cancer and clinically urgent procedures’.
‘We are also asking organisations to ensure staff, patients, and the public are made aware of any changes to services,’ they added.
Pulse has also asked what arrangements will look like in Northern Ireland.
It comes as NHS England has told GPs there may be an ‘increase’ in patients seeking GP appointments following the Queen’s death, as well as increased levels of DNAs and cancellations.
Doctor leaders around the UK paid tribute to the Queen following her death on Thursday last week.
Last year, GPs were asked to prioritise the Covid vaccination campaign over routine care until the New Year, and NHS England had said GPs would be ‘compensated appropriately’ to work over the holidays.
GP-led vaccination teams were paid an enhanced fee for Covid jabs delivered on bank holidays.