The requirement for GP practices to free up at least one appointment in every 500 to NHS 111 direct booking has been extended until 30 June, NHS England has announced.
In a primary care bulletin sent last week, NHS England said temporary changes made to the GP contact in response to Covid-19, including the 111 quota for practices, will carry over into the summer.
The requirement, originally introduced last April, had been due to elapse on 31 March after a further extension to the temporary regulations in September 2020.
In September, NHS England said that practices should make sufficient slots available for NHS 111 to refer into, but added they ‘should assess the use of the slots each day and adjust the number to meet demand’, which could mean fewer than one in 500.
Before the temporary change, practices were only required to make one appointment per 3,000 registered patients per day available for direct booking by NHS 111.
NHS England previously clarified that the slots, which are booked following clinical triage are ‘not appointments in a traditional sense’; and that practices should clinically assess the patients remotely and arrange their ongoing management.
The 30 June extension also applies to the pandemic suspensions of Friends and Family Test requirements, as well as the need to get patient consent to transfer them to electronic repeat dispensing.
It comes as the BMA’s GP Committee chair recently told Pulse that BMA and RCGP workload advice for GP practices, which says they can ‘pause’ non-essential work, ‘remains relevant’ going into April, despite NHS England expecting GPs to restart all QOF activity and deliver core contractual services at the same time while continuing the Covid vaccination programme.