I am pleased to say we have reached an agreement which we believe offers important and significant improvements to the contract.
The changes will provide some much needed stability and respite for GP practices by reducing bureaucracy and providing financial relief in key areas. Progress on ending the bureaucratic unplanned admission DES is welcome as it will enable GPs to spend more time looking after frail older patients, rather than on box ticking.
Reimbursements for CQC fees and rising costs of indemnity will protect practice resources so that they can be concentrated on frontline care for patients. Guaranteed cover for reimbursement to the sickness and maternity leave system will help practices continue to provide GP appointments when staff are unwell.
It is encouraging that NHS England were prepared to listen to GPs’ concerns in many of these areas and work with the BMA’s GP committee to deliver workable solutions.
However, we should not pretend that these changes will solve the enormous challenges confronting general practice that have left many GP practices facing closure. Stagnating budgets, staff shortages and rising patient demand are combining to overwhelm services in many areas of the country.
Claiming back funding from overseas countries for hospital services when their citizens use the NHS is nothing new and has been common practice for many years. We have ensured that the minor changes this year will allow overseas patients who hold an EHIC card or S1 form to self-declare at registration so that reception staff do not become border guards, and that practices are reimbursed for associated administration.
But claiming back funding from overseas countries for hospital services will generate relatively small amounts of extra money and will not address the incredible funding pressure on GP services.
While many of these new arrangements are a step in the right direction, what we really need is for the government to properly resource general practice to ensure that GPs can provide the time and care needed to meet the increasing needs of patients.