NHS England will expand the trial of direct booking of GP appointments by NHS 111, as part of plans to roll this out ‘universally’.
The BMA’s GP committee has agreed to an extension of the pilot in 2018/19, although participation will be voluntary.
But NHS Employers said the ‘lessons learned… will inform’ next year’s contract negotiations.
It comes as Pulse reported in December that CCGs have been told to reserve 5% of GP appointments for direct booking by NHS 111, rising to 30% of appointments by April 2019.
At the time, GPs said the scheme would not work unless it was contractual.
A pilot scheme has been running in the North East of England since 2016, with participating practices offered a one-off payment of 70p per patient.
Outlining the details of the recently concluded contract negotiations, NHS Employers said that NHS England intends that direct booking by the 111 clinical assessment service (CAS) into practice systems ‘should be rolled out universally as soon as possible’.
It said the GPC also ‘notes that potential benefits and implications of direct booking into practice systems for patients and practices will be demonstrated as this work progresses’.
The document added: ‘Over the next year, NHS England and GPC will work together to support further use of 111 direct booking where agreed with practices, to fully evaluate benefits and address any concerns about its implementation and potential consequences.
‘Lessons learned, and the solutions reached, will inform a discussion in the 2019/20 contract negotiations.’
But BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey played down the implications.
He told Pulse: ‘This is simply looking at the evidence this year of the experience of those using NHS 111 direct booking in to GP appointments.
‘That’s particularly the case for extended GP access sites and there’s a pilot taking place in the North East.’
NHS 111 direct booking of GP appointments
CCGs were asked to meet the 5% target by December 2017, with the target growing to 30% by April 2019. However GPs said there was still a lot of scepticism about whether the scheme would work.
Shortly after the launch of the North East England pilot, Pulse reported that NHS 111 was slow to fill appointments. But there is also fears NHS 111 could increase pressures on the NHS.
A senior NHS England director previously said that four in five NHS 111 referrals to practices could be avoided if the calls were first taken by a GP rather than a non-clinician.
And a year ago, NHS England announced that one in three calls to NHS 111 were to be assessed by a clinician under plans to ‘beef up’ the helpline.