An NHS England area team has written to GP practices with details of what they are expected to deliver on Easter Saturday in return for a one-off payment of up to £1,050.
According to a note from the Essex area team, seen by Pulse, the three-hour session must be kept free for patients phoning or attending the practice on the day with urgent care needs, accepting no pre-booked appointments.
In Essex, practices can be remunerated by a maximum of £350 per hour for the three-hour session, including to cover admin costs of informing patients.
The note said the aim was to ‘reduce the likely impact of patients with urgent primary medical service issues travelling to A&E’ and the session should be advertised via posters in the waiting room and potentially also on written prescriptions.
As previously reported, NHS England is incentivising GP practices to keep open on Easter Saturday against a one-off payment to help stave off an urgent care crisis over the long weekend.
The note from Essex said: ‘No “pre-booked” routine work should be carried out during these sessions, with the exception of a planned review which may avoid a hospital admission – for example, review of a patient visited the previous day.’
Other terms include the GP remaining at the surgery or conducting home visits during the duration of the session and for a receptionist to man phonelines from a half hour before the start of the session.
Although GPs are not obliged to do home visits but can refer them to out-of-hours cover during the session, the area team said they should still consider visiting complex patients.
The note added: ‘There is no specified minimum number of patient contacts for this scheme; it is expected that GPs will use their professional judgement, and spend their time on appropriate activity in line with the objectives of the scheme.’
Finally, NHS England said practices already due to provide a session at this time on Easter Saturday because they are signed up to the extended hours DES can still earn extra money either by double running the session with an extra GP, by running two seqential sessions or by moving the scheduled extended hours session to another time outside core GMS hours that week.
NHS England head of primary care for Esses Carolyn Larsen told Pulse: ‘NHS England in Essex, along with our health partners want to ensure that patients continue to be able to access the healthcare services they need over the four-day bank holiday Easter weekend.
‘To maintain continuity of service NHS England in Essex offered local GP practices an incentive to provide additional non-core hours cover on Easter Saturday, this however is not a requirement, and does not mean that every practice must open.
‘We would like to take this opportunity thank those GP practices who have offered to provide additional services on that day. As always NHS England is committed to ensuring that all patients have access to local, high-quality services.’
What practices must provide for achieving the Easter Saturday payment
Scope of clinical activity:
The scheme will be advertised within the practice – there should be posters in the waiting room and on their website and practice should also consider putting a note on the right hand side of printed prescriptions.
Practices will offer ‘urgent’ GP appointments for patients (who are registered with the practice) contacting the surgery during the appropriate time period, whether by telephone or by presenting at the practice.
The GP will triage home visit requests received during this time:
- The GP is not obliged to carry out visits – it is acceptable to triage visits and then refer on to the Out of hours Service or other appropriate agency
- The GP may choose to visit personally, especially where they believe this may positively affect the clinical outcome (this may be particularly the case with complex patients, who are well known to the GP)
- There is no specified minimum number of patient contacts for this scheme; it is expected that GPs will use their professional judgement, and spend their time on appropriate activity in line with the objectives of the scheme
No ‘pre-booked’ routine work should be carried out during these session:
- With the exception of a planned review which may avoid a hospital admission – for example, review of a patient visited the previous day
No non-NHS work may be done within these sessions.
Staffing / Access to premises:
Telephones at the practice will be ‘switched on’ and available from 30 minutes before the session begins, until the end of the session
Patients will be able to access the premises throughout the hours of the session
A fully registered GP will be on site (either at the practice premises, or carrying out ‘home visits’ as appropriate) throughout the hours of the session. It is not permissible for this service to be provided by a doctor in training, or a nurse solely.
Practices already providing extended hours DES:
Where a practice already provides extended hours under the DES on a Saturday, and wishes to provide this service in addition, the following options are available:
- ‘Double Running’. The practice may bring in an additional GP, ensure the phones are switched on, and carry out both services at the same time.
- ‘Sequential running’. The practice may run the DES session, and the urgent session at different times of the day
- ‘Substitution’. The practice may move the extended hours DES session to a different time in the week (outside GMS core hours)
A maximum payment of £350 per hour will be paid as follows for a maximum of 3 hours per practice. This is based on:
£150 per hour for each GP working
£200 per hour to cover nursing and administrative staff costs ( to include additional set up costs including patient communications, updating practice website, posters in surgery etc.)
Source: NHS England Essex area team mailing to GP practices