May bank holiday GP service will vary 'by area', says BMA

Opening hours for GP practices over the May bank holidays are likely to ‘vary from area to area’, the BMA has said - calling on NHS England to confirm urgently what will be expected of practices.

(Photo: Daniel Grill/Getty Images)
(Photo: Daniel Grill/Getty Images)

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey told GPonline that practices would be asked to open depending on ‘local pressures within an area’ as GPs continue to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

He said augmented out-of-hours arrangements could be ‘sufficient to cope’ with the volume of patients that would need access to general practice and primary care on 8 and 25 May.

NHS England bosses confirmed in a webinar last Thursday that a May bank holiday service would be needed during the pandemic, but were finalising the details of what form this would take. NHS England said at the time it hoped to provide details this week.

GP opening hours

Dr Vautrey suggested that opening requirements for practices would be varied this time round, with practices given more flexibility to make arrangements.

‘We know that in some areas NHS England is planning to [ask practices to] be open as normal again, as they were over Good Friday and Easter Monday, but it will vary from area to area - there are clearly greater pressures in some parts of the country than others’, he said.

‘It may well be that other areas [could] do a more limited opening or maybe working closely with their out-of-hours organisation and expand their capacity through more direct support, maybe using extended access hub arrangements that may operate in some parts of the country,’ he added.

NHS England medical director for primary care Dr Nikki Kanani said last week: ‘We're discussing with regions and [the BMA's GP committee] at the moment to see what we might need with both early May and the late May bank holiday.

May bank holiday

'We want to let you know [this week] so you have enough time to prepare for it because we recognise that we didn't give you enough time before. So next week I hope we will be able to share what we think May bank holiday should look like.'

GP practices in England were offered less than the average locum rate for locum cover over the Easter bank holidays, with GPs also raising concerns over late confirmation of the arrangements.

Dr Kanani recently apologised to GPs over the way NHS England handled identifying patients who need to 'shield' during the coronavirus outbreak.

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