It has now been confirmed that general practices will be asked toprovide around three hours extra appointment time a week – though finerdetails on the new access directed enhanced service (DES) are stillunder discussion.
NHS Employers and the British MedicalAssociation's GPs' Committee (GPC) yesterday (3 April 2008) announcedthat they have reached a settlement on the key changes to the GeneralMedical Services (GMS) contract for 2008/9.
A number of changeswill be made to the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF), including theremoval of 58.5 points to fund easier access to an appointment with aGP and to booking an appointment more than two days ahead.
A new national patient experience survey will measure the impact of these changes.
Inaddition, practice eligibility to receive one-off payments for theIM&T DES will continue for England for a further year until 31March 2009.
An additional 1.5% investment in the GMS contract tofund new services for patients in England will be allocated to meet thecost of any 2008/09 inflation uplift as determined by the governmentfollowing a review board recommendation.
Should any of this 1.5%remain, it would be invested in clinical areas (potentially up to £50min England) and would also be offered through PCTs for local agreementwith practices to provide additional services to improve local accessand responsiveness. The detail of this is currently being discussedwith the GPC.
Dr Barbara Hakin, chair of NHS Employers'negotiating team, said: "This has been a difficult agreement to secureand both sides have put in a great deal of work to ensure that thefinal changes to the contract would improve services to patients andgive the GPs the tools they need to deliver them.
"These changeswill result in some significant changes to the way GPs serve the needsof their patients locally. PCTs will now start discussions with GPpractices at a local level on the particular needs of their populationsin relation to access."
Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC Chairman, said:"GPs and their practices will be relieved that this long process isover and that they can get on with providing service to their patients.
"The GPC will continue working with NHS Employers to clarify all of the details of this set of changes."