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Talks on GP out-of-hours responsibility to begin this year, says NHS England



Exclusive Talks over how GPs will take back responsibility for out-of-hours care for their patients could begin within weeks, as part of the 2014/2015 contract negotiations between NHS England and the GPC, Pulse can reveal.

NHS England has confirmed that accountability for out-of-hours care will be part of contract negotiations this year, following Jeremy Hunt’s statement last week where he suggested that the GP contract would have to change to hand back responsibility for patients’ out-of-hours care to general practice.

Pulse revealed earlier today that six out of ten GPs would consider resigning if the Government forces GPs to take back out-of-hours responsibility and that an overwhelming majority believe the GPC should make it clear such proposals are ‘unacceptable’ without waiting for further detail to emerge.

Asked whether NHS England has been briefed on Government plans for GPs to resume out of hours responsibility, and whether it backed proposals, deputy director for primary care Dr Mike Bewick said NHS England supported the plans and was planning to begin talks later this year.

Dr Bewick said: ‘We work closely with the Department of Health at all times, and support the principle that GPs to take on greater accountability for ensuring appropriate and effective out-of-hours arrangements.’

However he repeated health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s statement from last week that it woud not have to mean GPs providing the out-of-hours care personally.

He said: ‘This does not mean a return to GPs being personally responsible for evening and weekend on-call delivery – it does, however, mean an opportunity for GPs to develop the more integrated care that we all know is central to ensuring balanced, sustainable NHS services.

‘We look forward to working with the GPC during contract negotiations for 2014/15 which should bring us closer to this shared goal.’

GP contract negotiations last year began in June – meaning discussions could be held between the GPC and NHS England’s representatives at NHS Employers within a matter of weeks.

The GPC’s negotiating position is set against GPs resuming out-of-hours responsibility, after an LMCs conference vote last week cemented strong opposition in the profession. GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said that the move was ‘perplexing’.

He said: ‘I find it perplexing that the Government and NHS England speak in these terms because GPs by virtue of CCGs and commissioning are already responsible for out of hours. As such, I don’t follow the logic of making it part of contractual negotiations. It would make more sense to look at how CCGs can be better enabled to commission out-of-hours care.’

He added: ‘We are pleased that the Government is not talking about GPs going back to out-of-hours provision, especially against the strong and unequivoval message sent by GPs [against such plans] at the LMCs Conference.’