NHS England is ‘committed’ to protecting the right for practices to close in-hours for training purposes following initial discussions with the profession, the GPC’s lead on the issue has said.
A meeting between NHS England, the GPC and CCGs was held on Thursday to find ways for practices to close in-hours for training purposes without risking a breach of contract.
Dr Bob Morley, chair of the GPC contracts and regulations subcommittee, said the initial talks were ‘positive’ and said NHS England seemed ‘committed’ to reaching a compromise and avoiding another ‘debacle’ like the row over Christmas opening hours.
Last month, 12 London-based GP practices were issued with breach notices for closing early on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, after NHS England advised practices not to hand over to out-of-hours providers with core hours.
There was some fear from GP leaders that this ‘heavy-handed’ approach would transfer to practices closing for training purposes, with the chair of the Family Doctors Association, Dr Peter Swinyard, saying that the premise of the meeting was ‘nonsense’.
However, Dr Morley said that there was no indication that NHS England were looking to be heavy-handed on in-hours closure, and that finding consistency was the main aim.
He said: ‘[The meeting] was very positive and constructive […] Clearly some further work needs to be done, and I expect that NHSE will take this forward with GPC now. And I’m sure we can reach a position of shared understanding to make sure there’s no repeat of the complete debacle we had over this Christmas.’
‘[NHS England] certainly seem committed to want CCGs to be able to support practice training whilst ensuring that the reasonable needs of patients are met, and that this needs to be determined in a consistent way nationally.’
‘This was an initial meeting which will be taken forward in discussion. Funding wasn’t discussed, it was more about how practice participation could be facilitated in practical terms rather than money.’
NHS England has said the meeting was to discuss how GPs can ‘attend networking and learning events’ without reducing patient access, or risk breaching their contractual terms.
A spokesperson for NHS England told Pulse: ‘The meeting gave us a really good start point for discussions and on agreeing a variety of areas of common ground.
‘We will be working closely with GPC with the intention of developing a framework for practices and area teams to work to in considering the issue of meeting the needs of patients whilst recognising the pressures on practices.’