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GPs to keep one in 500 slots open for NHS 111 direct booking

NHS England has announced that the requirement for practices to set aside a minimum of one in 500 appointment slots for NHS 111 direct booking has been extended until 30 September 2020 ‘at the earliest’.

It follows a call for ‘urgent clarification’ from the BMA after the emergency regulations that mandated the requirement lapsed at the end of June. 

In a letter to GPs last night, NHS England confirmed that the appointments ‘remain necessary’ to support phase two of the response to coronavirus.

The letter said: ‘They remain necessary to support phase two of the NHS response, in particular the important role NHS 111 is playing in reducing the face-to-face transmission risk for patients and NHS staff.’

Practices should continue to clinically assess patients booked in by NHS 111 remotely and ‘arrange their ongoing management’, it added.

It said: ‘This ensures that only those who need further care in-person or via telephone [or] video consultation are presenting to services, and they are managed as appropriate for their clinical condition.’

Other emergency measures now extended until 30 September ‘at the earliest’ for practices in England include the suspension of data submissions for the Friends and Family Test – which was paused in April.

And GPs still do not need patient consent ‘in certain circumstances’ to ‘encourage increased use’ of electronic repeat dispensing (eRD).

The letter said: ‘Use of eRD has many benefits for patients, practices and wider systems and this temporary provision aims to make it easier for practices to transfer patients to e-RD in defined circumstances, where this is clinically appropriate.’

It comes as NHS England’s letter also announced a ‘major expansion’ of the flu scheme as parts of QOF are restored, a ‘redesign’ of GP appraisals and the immediate restart of routine patient reviews and health checks.

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