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GPs to open over Easter after NHS 111 collapse adds to ‘increased demand’

Exclusive CCG leaders have asked GPs to keep surgeries open extra hours over Easter in response to an expected increase in demand and the collapse of the local NHS 111 service.

North Manchester CCG chair Dr Martin Whiting sent an email to GPs yesterday afternoon, offering bank holiday rates for keeping their surgeries open over the Easter Weekend, after a request from the local area team.

He said that this was in response to an ‘anticipated increase in demand’ over the Easter holiday and the difficult soft launch of the local NHS 111 service last week.

Pulse revealed earlier this week that half the country has delayed the launch of the full NHS 111 service from Monday, and that the GPC withdrew its support for the scheme following the chaos GPs encountered when the NHS 111 number was ‘soft launched’ in many regions last week.

Dr Whiting wrote to GPs: ‘In response to an anticipated increase in demand over the Easter bank holiday period, NHS Greater Manchester have asked us to consider opening some satellite clinics in GP practices to provide extra capacity to see out-of-hours patients. 

‘You would not need to open for a full day, and will be remunerated at bank holiday rates.’

He said that due to the failure of NHS 111, the local out-of-hours co-operative would be fielding urgent care calls.

He said: ‘As you know, NHS 111 experienced operational difficulties on Thursday evening last week which made service delivery challenging. 

‘As a result, the call-handling function for out-of-hours calls will continue to be provided by GoToDoc until we have further assurance from NHS Direct (the provider of NHS 111 in the North West) that there is sufficient capacity in the system to provide a 24/7 call-handling function. 

‘This is likely to be the case for at least the next two weeks whilst the three Manchester CCGs work closely with NHS Greater Manchester and NHS Direct to minimise any disruption and ensure patients receive a safe and responsive service.’

Manchester LMC honorary secretary and GPC member Dr John Hughes said: ‘North Manchester CCG has asked practice to open extra shifts over Easter and are offering to pay three times normal rates to do so. I think this is completely mad and shows what a complete shambles it all [NHS 111] is.’

A spokesperson for NHS Greater Manchester said: ‘Recently, patient demand of healthcare services has been higher than expected.

‘Over the bank holiday period, we have been assured that the providers have a system in place to cover urgent patient care, including out-of-hours call handling using existing out-of-hours providers.’

An NHS England (formerly the NHS Commissioning Board) spokesperson said: ‘NHS England is aware of some difficulties in the introduction of the NHS 111 service in some areas, but we are confident that measures now in place will ensure resolution of these early problems.

‘The service has great potential to be a fast, efficient, all-round service that ensures patients get the right care for their needs.’

GPC negotiator Dr David Bailey said GPs were being asked to mop up failings in other areas.

He said: ‘In many cases out-of-hours organisations who have lost triaging contracts are stepping into the breach often with volunteers to maintain a safe service. I guess this offer is just an extension of this.

‘In some places out-of-hours had to shed staff and some may not have the capacity to take back services for which they were not commissioned it highlights the problems when bright ideas are rolled out without adequate piloting.’


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