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Extended hours DES to continue despite national seven-day access launch

The national enhanced service for extended hours will continue to be available to practices in 2018/19 despite the national launch of seven-day hubs.

The news, confirmed to Pulse by the BMA’s GP Committee, comes as all CCGs are being paid £258m – or £3.34 per patient – to extend access to routine GP appointments in evenings and weekends during the year. This is set to rise to £6 per patient from 2019/20.

Planning guidance has stipulated that CCGs have to commission at least an extra hour and a half of evening appointments, while Saturday and Sunday opening requirements are flexible depending on local demand.

As previously reported by Pulse, the much-delayed GP contract negotiations are expected to result in ‘minimal changes’, including no new enhanced services; no changes to QOF; and continued reimbursement of indemnity increases.

Meanwhile, the DDRB’s recommendation regarding a GP pay uplift is pending.

Regarding the extended hours DES, GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Yes it will be continuing.’

Under the Extended Hours DES directions, GP practices are paid to ‘offer patient consultations face to face, by telephone or by other means at times other than during the core hours’ as stated in their contract.

In 2016/17, NHS England paid out £88.4m to practices for the service.

From October last year, the Extended Hours DES terms were changed so that practices which regularly close for half a day a week were no longer able to take part.

The BMA clarified that this would ‘not impact those practices that close in order for their staff to take part in monthly training activities, or those that make minor locally agreed adjustments to their opening hours at the beginning or the end of the day’.