Government announces new seven-day GP contract at Tory conference

GPs will be offered a new seven-day integrated care contract with no QOF bureaucracy, the government has announced.

David Cameron: new GP seven-day GP contract
David Cameron: new GP seven-day GP contract

GP leaders said they had not been consulted on the new contract and warned it would not address the root causes of pressures on services.

The prime minister revealed details of the new voluntary contract as the Conservatives gathered in Manchester for their annual conference. 

The new contract, to be launched in April 2017, will integrate GPs with community nurses and other health professionals using money from with the £10bn new NHS investment announced previously, the government said.

Seven-day GP contract

The contract will be based on the principles of more funds for primary care, more control for GPs over the way they work, and more time to care for patients and services seven days a week, the government said. It will abolish the QOF, which the government said was a bureaucratic burden. 

NHS England said the contract will be developed as part of the new care models vanguards programmes to support the integration of wider primary and community care services. The commissioning body said previously that it would develop new contractual options to encourage GPs to join new care models. As well as simplifying the QOF, it has suggested merging GP funding with other providers’ streams. 

A new ‘patient guarantee’ will require CCGs to ensure every patient has seven-day access to services by 2020, the prime minister said.

‘Our plans for a truly seven-day NHS will transform services for millions of patients. It will offer hardworking taxpayers and families the security of the care they need at a time that is convenient to them. I want to pay tribute to the fantastic work of GPs and indeed all NHS staff across the country,' said David Cameron. 

Pressure on GPs

‘I know they face huge pressures – that is why we will direct more money into primary care and clear out bureaucracy as part of the drive to develop a new contract that will be better for patients and NHS professionals, seven days a week.’

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: ‘The NHS Five Year Forward View argues we need more GPs, backed by new investment. Many family doctors are now also wanting to pool their sovereignty and work in federations, superpractices and our new Vanguard care models. To support that, they're asking NHS England for a new contract option, which will combine core general practice with wider primary and community health services, serving larger local populations. 

Mr Stevens added: ‘So NHS England will now work with GPs - through the vanguard programme and beyond - to develop a new voluntary contract by April 2017. This will support GPs who want to to come together locally, expand team-working in primary care, and access currently separate funding streams. The new voluntary contract will also help relieve workload pressures on GPs by redesigning care in line with today's major new report commissioned by NHS England from the NHS Alliance and Primary Care Foundation.’

GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘Yet again, the government has chosen to rely on soundbites during the Conservative Party conference rather than actually addressing the fundamental issues facing general practice and patient care.

GP workforce

‘This announcement, which was not discussed with the BMA, does nothing to address the root causes of the pressures on general practice; escalating patient demand from an aging population and care moving into the community, crippling underfunding and a chronic shortage of GPs. Nine in 10 GPs state that workload pressures are damaging the quality of patient care.

‘The government must learn from its own pilot schemes where there have been a number of examples of weekend appointments having little or no pick up by patients. These proposals could waste precious NHS resources and divert staff and funds from overstretched core GP services. 

‘GPs already provide around the clock care, seven days a week – we need this to be properly staffed and funded rather than be undermined.

‘While getting rid of the box ticking of QOF is something the BMA has long been calling for, this should apply to all practices. It would be wholly wrong if this is being used as a carrot to only benefit patients for those practices considering the new GP contract.

‘Crucially, we do not need the diversion of a new contract, we need proper levels of investment in GP services, and thousands more GPs and staff to keep up with the sheer number of patients coming through the door in order to provide safe, quality care.’

Photo: David Devin

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