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GPs offered hundreds of thousands to put on extra appointments this winter

Exclusive GPs in Yorkshire have been given £700,000 to offer more in-hours appointments over winter, while GPs in Birmingham are set to receive £375,000 for extra appointments in January.

The winter resilience scheme in NHS Calderdale CCG, which launched in November, has allowed all GPs in the area to offer more appointments between 8am and 6.30pm.

Some of the funding is also being spent on an extended access pilot in south and central Halifax, opening up GP appointments from 6.30pm to 8pm during the week.

Debbie Robinson, NHS Calderdale CCG’s head of primary care quality and improvement, said the investment would ‘improve access for all patients by supporting local GPs to offer more appointments’.

She said: ‘The aim is to ensure that more people can see a GP or health professional at their GP surgery when they need to over the busy winter period.’

However, the CCG was unable to confirm how practices can receive this funding.

GPs in Birmingham are also seeing an increase in funding this winter with NHS Birmingham Cross City CCG committing £205,000 to provide 8,200 extra appointments in January 2018.

According to CCG board papers, the funding is being issued through a local improvement scheme (LIS) with practices providing ‘same day pre-bookable appointments in addition to or parallel with their usual clinical sessions’.

This is in addition to £170,000 in winter funding approved earlier in the year for GPs to provide 6,800 extra appointments on 27, 28 and 29 December and 2 and 3 January.

The CCG added that the 95 practices in the NHS Birmingham Cross City CCG can sign up to one or both of the schemes, with funding being offered at £25 per consultation.

However, Dr Robert Morley, Birmingham LMC’s executive secretary, said: ‘Whilst any additional funding for general practice is welcome the solution to the endemic problems facing it and the rest of the NHS do not rely on one off small pots of money aimed at resolving crises in other parts of the system rather than tackling the ongoing crisis of general practice workload and workforce.’

Karen Helliwell, director of integration for NHS Birmingham CrossCity CCG, said: ‘The CCGs have commissioned additional primary care capacity to support this period; specifically the days following the bank holidays, which we know often see an increase in A&E activity.’

This comes as Pulse previously reported LMC leaders in Leicester and Lincolnshire as saying ‘there is no extra funding at all’ for in-hours GP care.

Winter resilience plans

While none of the winter plans detailed any extra funding for general practice, many requested that GP practices provide extended hours to reduce the pressure on A&E departments – including staying open on bank holidays

The plans however did include placing up to three GPs in A&E streaming services to curb secondary care pressures this winter.

But trusts are already struggling this autumn, with four declaring black or red alerts in September and October and GPs have said the strain on A&E will put general practice under even more pressure this winter.

As a result Chancellor Philip Hammond handed hospital trusts £335m to deal with urgent winter pressures in the Autumn Budget statement, while general practice failed to get a mention.