NHS England has confirmed to GP that practices across the South region, which do not normally open on Saturday, have been asked to do so with no additional funding.
GP leaders said practices should not feel compelled to open outside contracted hours and called for proper funding for out-of-hours services rather than short-term fixes.
In some parts of the country practices have been offered payments to open partly to help reduce demand on other parts of the service over the bank holiday period.
Easter GP service
Across the NHS North and Midlands and East regions commissioners, working through CCGs, are offering practices an average of £650 per session through local enhanced services (LESs) to open at different points over the four-day Easter period, a spokeswoman said.
In London, NHS England said 84% of people will have access to GP services on Easter. Commissioners are finalising details of a LES for a small number of boroughs where additional capacity is required.
In the South region, however, which includes the Thames Valley, Kent, Surrey, Wessex, and the west country, practices have been asked to open with no funding.
A spokeswoman for NHS England South said: ‘There are a number of GP practices across the South region that will be open on Easter Saturday. We have been talking to those who would not normally be open on that day to see if they can offer any appointments to patients on Easter Saturday but NHS England South has not offered extra payment for this.’
GPs can choose to open
GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said it was decision for each practice whether to open and there were different arrangements in place in different parts of the country.
He said: ‘The local experience of pressure on the urgent care service is also related to whether a CCG is keen to see this as a priority or not. No practice should feel compelled to work additional hours outside what they are contracted to do. What is really needed is for local GP out-of-hours service providers to be properly resourced to be able to fund any additional capacity when necessary to meet the need of their population in a sustainable way.
‘For too long they've been starved of funding and that has to be addressed if we are to avoid the need for these short-term fixes whenever a Bank Holiday weekend occurs.’