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Pressure on GPs to provide ‘full service’ before Christmas

Exclusive NHS managers across Greater Manchester and the West Midlands are placing GPs under pressure to provide a ‘full range of services’ on the Fridays before Christmas and New Year.

LMCs hit out at the ‘edicts’ and accused PCT clusters of undermining GPs’ right to judge patient demand after attempts to impose working hours for 23 and 30 December.

A letter to practices from NHS Greater Manchester told GPs they should work ‘full working days with full access to primary care… as a key feature of winter resilience’.

‘During this time it is vital we keep our performance on track for the sake of our patients, staff, reputation and for CCG authorisation,’ the letter said.

NHS Birmingham and Solihull said ‘practices would be expected to provide a full range of essential services within their core hours in line with PMS/GMS contracts’.

Dr John Hughes, secretary of Manchester LMC, said: ‘On Friday before Christmas most patients will be shopping. There will be a rush in the morning and very little in the afternoon. There shouldn’t be edicts coming from PCTs.’

‘If there are extra winter pressures in their services, that’s their issue.’

NHS Greater Manchester said it had written to practices to clarify the letter, but a spokesperson said: ‘Past experience has shown although many practices offer excellent access over Christmas and New Year, others do not, which increases pressure on A&E.’

Birmingham LMC accused NHS Birmingham and Solihull of circulating ‘inaccurate information’.

Dr Bob Morley, chief executive of Birmingham LMC, said: ‘It is irritating, that without asking the advice of the LMC, the PCT cluster sent a letter to practices that was factually inaccurate.’

‘We felt we had to correct it. The only requirement is that GMS practices have to meet the ‘reasonable needs of their patients’ and it may be that practices see it appropriate to run an emergency only service in the afternoon.’

‘If a practice is historically very quiet on a Friday afternoon before Christmas, it doesn’t make sense for lots of GPs to be in. It is for the practice to decide how to meet patient need, not for the PCT to set its own rules that breach regulations.’

Dr Diane Reeves, medical director of NHS Birmingham and Solihull, said: ‘The 23 and 30 December are normal working days so we expect GP practices to offer a full range of services to patients on both dates.’

‘This is in line with their PMS/GMS contracts and essential to ensure patients have access to medical services and hospital services are not put under undue pressure.’