GPs will be funded to open over the Easter bank holidays, as part of NHS England’s commitment to ‘meet all extra costs’ related to the coronavirus (Covid-19) epidemic.
The pledge was made in a live webinar yesterday evening, during which NHS England medical director for primary care Dr Nikki Kanani and director for primary care strategy and NHS contracts Ed Waller said Good Friday and Easter Monday would need to look ‘as close to normal working days’ as possible.
‘Auxiliary services’, including community pharmacy and patient transport, have also been asked to open and run as usual, they added.
And they said some GP practices will be asked to also stay open over Easter Saturday and Sunday. Although in some areas, GP practices may be able to agree with their commissioners – depending on local need and the provision of out-of-hours services – not to open at all.
NHS England had previously said GPs practices would need to open extra over Easter to coincide with an expected ‘peak of activity’ related to the coronavirus outbreak.
Mr Waller said in yesterday’s webinar: ‘We will be publishing something as soon as we can, fleshing out the commitment that was made about meeting all the extra costs of Covid.
‘That will set out exactly how all of this will work, but to reassure you, anything that is a true and additional cost above and beyond what would normally be spent is going to be provided for.’
Dr Kanani said some practices may not open if they decide with commissioners that out-of-hours (OOH) services will be ‘enough’, while others have been asked to open across the whole weekend.
But she added: ‘Some people have been asked to be open on Saturday and Sunday. This is not something that we have nationally decided, it might be that your system is going through additional pressure over and above that which your out-of-hours service can manage.
‘But if you’re being asked to open, you will be remunerated.’
Mr Waller said: ‘All across the NHS I’m afraid, we’re in the position where the start of the peak of the pandemic corresponds to Easter and that has an obvious implication for all of us being at work.
‘We therefore need Good Friday and Easter Monday to be as close to normal working days as they can be. I know that is disappointing to many people who were hoping for a break.’
In response to a GP question, Dr Kanani added that NHS England will do its ‘very best’ to replace the lost bank holidays with others ‘later in the year’.
She said: ‘I’ve already suggested it to the ministerial team, absolutely recognising that we do want to get them back, but it’s not in our gift.’