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GPs can use time set aside for extended access to work for CCAS

Practices can use their extended access time and funding to work at the Covid clinical assessment service (CCAS) if they don’t need it to ‘meet demand’, NHS England has said.

However, if they do not donate this time to the CCAS they must continue to provide extended access in line with the GP contract, NHS England director for primary care strategy and contracts Ed Waller told GPs in a live webinar last week.

He said: ‘One of the things we suggested to people is that if they don’t feel they need to use all their extended access time to meet demands in their practice, it is perfectly legitimate to devote that time to working through the 111 Covid clinical assessment service – with the current extended access funding funding that.

‘Otherwise, the national extended access arrangements through the network DES have been published and they stand. Some of the other access arrangements made locally will obviously be for discussions with CCGs and others.’

Any support practices are able to give to NHS 111 during the coronavirus pandemic would be ‘really welcome’, he added.

Earlier this month, NHS England ‘urgently’ called on GPs to offer up their spare time to staff the CCAS telephone service.

The CCAS has been set up as an extension to NHS 111 during the Covid-19 outbreak to remotely triage patients when the algorithm used by call handlers has been unable to determine whether or not they need hospital admission.

NHS 111 sorts patients with Covid-19 symptoms into cohorts, including those with severe symptoms who require an ambulance, those with mild symptoms, and those who require further clinical assessment by CCAS.

The CCAS then re-classifies them as advised to self-isolate at home, or requiring hospital treatment, face-to-face assessment in primary care or ‘proactive’ monitoring by their practice.

Last week, practices were asked to free up appointments for direct booking from the service, however NHS England later clarified that there is ‘no expectation’ GPs will see these patients face-to-face.