By Gareth Iacobucci
Exclusive: Half of PCTs are preparing to cut local funding for GP extended opening hours after the Government announced that central funding would be reduced by a third, Pulse can reveal.
The decision by managers to bring LESs in line with the new DES announced as part of the 2011/12 GP contract deal comes as a Pulse survey of GPs found 14% had so far decided to stop doing extended hours, while many others are waiting on the exact terms of local deals.
The GPC insisted that the majority of GPs would not give up extended hours because they had got what they wanted from this year’s deal, which has brought a reduction in DES payments from £3.01 to £1.90 per registered patient, but with added flexibilities including concurrent working and allowing any healthcare professional to staff appointments.
Pulse’s snapshot poll of 31 PCTs found that half of those that had made a decision regarding their extended hours LESs planned to modify existing terms to bring them in line with the national deal, with nearly a fifth set to abolish them entirely. Five trusts said they did not provide a LES, while 10 said they were yet to make a decision about future local funding.
Almost 40% of the 200 GPs surveyed by Pulse said they had yet to make a decision about whether to open at evenings and weekends next year, with just 28% saying they would definitely still be offering the service.
GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said: ‘I don’t think [the number of GPs providing extended hours] will change. They will be getting paid less but doing less for it. This is what we wanted when we started all of this. All the things that annoyed GPs about this have gone.’
But Dr Brian Mansfield, a GP in Beckington, Somerset, said he had doubts about the level of service that practices would be able to provide: ‘I can visualise extended hours becoming a service manned by healthcare assistants as the only way to deliver the service without realising a loss.’
Among trusts planning to renegotiate extended hours payments in light of the DES was NHS Derbyshire, which said ‘we will be reducing the LES to the same level as the new DES’ and NHS Ealing, which said it would ‘re-examine the terms of the deal’.
Local deals on extended hours cut to match DES 2011/12 contract