'Victory' on extended hours deal for practices

Practices in England can continue to offer extended hours under national directed enhanced service (DES) arrangements after the GPC asked for - and won - a year's extension of the deal to the end of March 2011.

Dr Buckman says keeping the current arrangement avoids problems
Dr Buckman says keeping the current arrangement avoids problems

But practices offering extended access under local arrangements will need to check whether their primary care or-ganisation is still offering a local deal after March 2010.

Practices working under the national DES will continue to get £2.95 per patient in a 2010/11 pay package for GPs that is likely to require them to achieve 1 per cent efficiency savings.

According to the latest DoH figures, more than 77 per cent of practices in England now offer extended hours.

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman denied that asking for the contentious extended hours deal to continue for a further year amounted to capitulation.

'Most GPs do not like the arrangements and regard them as a waste of time and money.

'However, given that they exist, we want and recognise the need for them to continue. To suddenly stop would have created a problem for many practices as well as an economic problem,' Dr Buckman added.

'The alternative is to have it scrapped and the money moved back to where it was stolen from but that's not going to happen.'

With the Conservatives pledging to scrap extended hours, tensions between the GPC and government would increase under an administration led by David Cameron.

But prime minister Gordon Brown said at October's party conference that, under Labour, extended hours will be compulsory at every practice within five years.

The Patient Survey showed that patient satisfaction with practice opening hours fell slightly after extended hours came in - from 84 per cent in 2006/7 to 81 per cent at mid- year in 2009/10.

The DoH is drafting the direc-tions and guidance for imple-mentation. The existing PCT guidance is expected to remain largely unchanged.

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