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DH tight-lipped on GP out-of-hours shake-up but pledges to ‘negotiate’ contract changes

Exclusive: The Department of Health has refused to release any details about how health secretary Jeremy Hunt plans to hand back out-of-hours responsibility to GPs - but has promised that changes to the GP contract will be made in ‘negotiation’ with the profession.

Pulse asked the DH to clarify Mr Hunt’s announcement yesterday that he wanted GPs to be individually responsible for their patients around the clock and given a duty to ‘sign off’ out-of-hours care.

Questions posed by Pulse regarding the statement included when the DH wants these changes to come into effect and whether it would consider imposing terms if the profession did not accept them. In light of Mr Hunt’s comments that GPs have to do too much ‘box-ticking’, Pulse also questioned what changes the DH are planning for the QOF.

But a Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘Any future changes to general practice and the GP contract will be made in negotiation with GPs. It is too early to go into detail about what proposals might be.’

It comes as LMCs are due to debate Mr Hunt’s announcement this afternoon in three emergency motions brought to the LMCs conference, including whether GPs should and could take back out-of-hours responsibility, as well as a vote of no confidence in the health secretary in light of his ‘misrepresentation’ of GPs to the public and the press.

What the motions say:

801: That conference agrees with the Secretary of State that GPs are the patients’ champions; NHS staff are working harder than ever before; and targets and requirements of QOF, QP and enhanced services are getting in the way of dealing with the patient’s agenda.


802: That conference accepts that GPs should take back responsibility for out-of-hours provision, if:

i. GPC negotiators can agree safe guaranteed minimum funding

ii. private providers cannot be involved as GPs will be ‘responsible’ for outcomes

iii. all funding from NHS 111 is transferred to GP out of hours

iv. out of hours should be run and organised locally to best meed the needs of patients.


803: That given the English Secretary of State for Health’s misrepresentation of GPs to the public and press, this conference has no confidence in him.

Source: BMA

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said: ‘I think it will be a very interesting debate. It is very important that the profession determines policy and is seen to do so.’

‘The lack of clarity is very difficult to work with because you don’t know whether you are for or against something until you know what it is. But if that is how they are going to work, and they have always done that, then we have to work with that.’

Dr Buckman declined to comment in more detail so as to not influence the debate. However in opening the LMCs conference yesterday he warned GPs were‘not prepared to shore up urgent care’.