GP practices will be required to record the availability of evening and weekend opening for routine appointments under the 2016/17 GP contract deal.
The new requirement, to which the GPC has agreed, will see all GP practices having to submit ‘access surveys’ every six months until 2020/21.
The move comes as the Government is working to a manifesto commitment to ensure all patients have access to routine evening and weekend appointments by 2020, which the GPC has previously branded ‘a pipe dream’.
Commenting on the deal earlier today, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the contract agreement was ’just the start of significant new investment for general practice, will help GPs to provide a truly modern, efficient service every day of the week’.
But GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse that although the GPC has agreed to the data collections, it represents no change to the terms of the extended hours enhanced service or introduce any contractual requirement on practices themselves to offer routine evening and weekend appointments.
This comes as during contract negotiations, Pulse learned that NHS Employers had floated an idea that would see funding move into a new DES paying practices for providing seven-day access as part of networks.
Instead, Dr Vautrey said: ’Twice a year, practices will be required to provide data on whether patients have access to routine evening and weekend appointments. These appointments do not need to be delivered by the practice itself and could apply to access to a locality or challenge fund hub that patients in the practice can access.’
He added that the GPC would be talking to NHS England about how this work but anticipated it being limited to a few brief questions similar to the current e-declaration that practice managers already complete.
It comes as a new alternative contract for larger practices with at least 30,000 patients, to be planned during 2016/17 and rolled out from April 2017, is expected to include a seven-day access requirement.
This is despite the official evaluation into the Prime Minister’s seven-day access pilots showing there was little demand for patients to attend routine appointments on Saturday afternoons or Sundays.