Exclusive GP leaders will meet with NHS bosses this week to discuss how practices can remain open in core hours even when staff are on training days or other events.
Pulse has learnt the meeting – to take place on Thursday – will discuss how NHS England can ‘support’ practices to maintain patient access and meet their contractual requirements.
It comes in the wake of a public falling out between the GPC and NHS England regarding practices closing early on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve. To date 12 London-based GP practices have been issued with breach notices for closing early after NHS England advised that practices should not hand over to out-of-hours providers in core hours on those days.
NHS England said it will meet with representatives from the GPC, LMCs and CCGs this week to discuss how GPs can ‘attend networking and learning events’ without reducing patient access, or risk breaching their contractual terms.
Dr David Geddes, head of primary care at NHS England, said that although area teams had already written to practices where they believe that there have been breaches of their contract due to closing in core hours, they wanted to work out a process going forward.
He said: ‘The issuing of breach notices is not something that is undertaken lightly and conversations are being had between contractors and area teams on the issues.
‘Going forward, NHS England is hosting a meeting with GPC, LMC and CCG representatives to discuss the issues of how we support GP practices to network and attend learning events, whilst ensuring contract compliance and maintaining access to patients.’
But GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said NHS England’s ‘very heavy-handed’ approach over the Christmas holidays was worrying.
He said: ‘It is very heavy-handed actually to prevent practices from following customary practice around Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. This is a discussion following on from the huge anxiety that was created [as a result].’
Family Doctor Association chair Dr Peter Swinyard said the premise of the meeting was ‘nonsense’. He said: ‘If they don’t want GPs and their staff to be trained they can do as they please, but the contract we have does not require the surgery doors to be open from 8am to 6.30pm.’
He added: ‘It is perfectly reasonable for a practice to close down for a couple of hours for a training session, we do it occasionally at our practice. We had a retraining session on resuscitation, it wouldn’t be much fun for patients to wander in and see all the staff on the floor bouncing up and down on on top of Resusci Annes, or throwing the senior partner into the recovery position, so we shut the doors for a couple of hours.’