Exclusive - DoH gives extended hours flexibility

Policy adviser reveals changes that allowed the GPC to back the DoH deal.

The DoH is to allow local flexibility in how extended hours are to be offered under proposed changes to the contract.

This appears to be the shift that triggered the GPC to say the proposed contract would be less damaging to general practice than the imposition.

It will be up to PCTs and practice-based commissioning groups to decide how the extended hours DES works locally, according to the DoH.

Speaking exclusively to GP, DoH policy adviser Richard Armstrong said that, although patients must be able to access a practice in core hours, 'that doesn't stop the practice looking at its own internal resources and seeing whether there are other periods of the day that are quieter when they could move individual surgeries around'.

'But that wouldn't count towards the additional contracted hours that are being provided for,' he added. 'What we're looking for is to contract additional hours on top of these things.'

The GPC has advised practices not to tell PCTs how many appointments they currently offer.

Speaking of the revised deal, health minister Ben Bradshaw told GP: 'I hope very much that GPs will accept this.

'It's a sensible and modest proposal which involves more than £100 million of extra investment in primary care.

'The shift in the GPC's position from rejection to recommendation or approval ... would also represent a recognition that the mood of GPs on the ground was not being reflected by their previous outright opposition.'

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey denied that local flexibility had swayed the GPC.

'We need clarity on what flexibility PCTs will have regarding extended hours,' he said.

The GPC plans to issue details of the poll next week.

rachel.liddle@haymarket.com

* How are you going to vote in the GPC poll? Vote at healthcarerepublic.com.

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