By Gareth Iacobucci
Exclusive: PCTs are being forced to put in place interim measures to fund GP extended opening hours because of the continued uncertainty over future arrangements, Pulse can reveal.
With GPC negotiators and ministers still locked in talks over whether to scrap central funding for evening and weekend surgeries from this April, some trusts have moved to shore up local arrangements by putting temporary funding streams in place.
Around £158m in existing GP funding was transferred to the central extended access DES when it was created in 2008, but there is speculation that this year’s delayed contract deal could see the funding disappear or be diverted elsewhere when the DES expires on 31 March.
PCTs including NHS Somerset, NHS West Kent, Liverpool PCT and NHS Richmond told Pulse they were putting measures in place to ensure GPs could continue to provide extended hours beyond the end of March.
A spokeswoman for Liverpool PCT said: ‘We will continue funding [extended hours] through the local enhanced service route, and are negotiating this to be delivered on a neighbourhood basis.’
Dr Harry Yoxall, medical secretary of Somerset LMC, said NHS Somerset’s decision to roll over its LES until June was sensible because of the uncertainty over future funding, but questioned how cost-effective it would be to continue beyond that.
He said: ‘Due to the uncertainty, our PCT is intending to roll forward the LES for the first few months of the year. Just stopping it would be quite tricky. We appreciate it is quite expensive. It’s a tricky decision that’s up for debate.’
Extended hours funding extended