Access and choice DESs to continue

Directed enhanced services (DESs) in England for access, and choice and booking have been reinstated for 2007/8 after a deal between NHS Employers and the GPC.

The two enhanced services, worth up to £18,000 a year to an average practice, were agreed on a one-year basis for 2006/7. No agreement was reached to renew them at the end of the last financial year because of the collapse of GMS contract negotiations.

But GPC leaders said the DoH had renewed the deals because it wanted to be seen to be 'acting in good faith'.

Some practices in England stopped using Choose and Book and adhering to DES access targets from April because they were no longer being paid for the work. These practices will not lose out financially if they start delivering the DESs again from now.

GPC chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said: 'Last year, the DESs came in a bit late, and it's the same this year. We would not want to see people penalised by the delay in getting an agreement.'

GPC negotiator Dr Richard Vautrey said that measurement of targets in the 2007/8 Choose and Book DES would mirror the 2006/7 system.

'Practices were measured on usage between September and February - that should still apply. Even practices that stopped using Choose and Book have an opportunity to start again.'

Dr Meldrum added: 'I am very pleased that the uncertainty has been removed.

There are practices that want to continue with these services, and this means they can be paid for doing so.'

In Northern Ireland, ministers have confirmed that 2006/7 DESs, worth £25,000 on average, will be rolled over into 2007/8.

In Scotland, the GPC expects all DES funding to be maintained, but only the access DES worth £6,200 on average has been confirmed for 2007/8.

All other DESs came to an end in April.

In Wales, all DESs were cut for 2007/8 and the average practice lost £18,000 (GP, 6 April). Negotiators hoped contract talks could be revived.

DESs FOR 2007/8
ENGLAND - Access and choice and booking agreed
SCOTLAND - Access agreed and talks expected on other DESs.
WALES - None renewed but talks are expected.
NORTHERN IRELAND - 2006/7 DESs are to continue.

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