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The 2015/16 contract – what’s in store?
NHS Employers and the General Practitioners Committee of the BMA announced changes to the GMS contract in England for 2015/16 at the end of last year. The focus of the changes is on a named, accountable GP for all patients, publication of GPs' average net earnings and a commitment to expand and improve the provision of online services.
Key changes include:
- Assigning a named, accountable GP to all patients, including children.
- Patient survey.
- Contractual requirement to screen patients for alcohol misuse.
- Fax and SMS provider.
- Increasing the number of appointments available online.
- Expanding and improving online access to patient records.
- Publication of average net earnings for Partners and salaried GPs.
- Extension of the extended hours, learning disabilities enhanced services, and avoiding unplanned admissions (AUA) enhanced services.
- A contractual requirement to have a patient participation group (PPG).
- Changes to registration regulations which will allow for armed forces personnel to be registered with a GP practice.
- Development of more consistent guidance for enhanced minor surgery services.
The main challenges
Considering the onerous task last year of informing all our patients aged 75 and over of their named GP, having a named, accountable GP for all patients (including children), who will take lead responsibility for the co-ordination of all appropriate services required under the contract, could be quite a mammoth task. The contract requires practices to allocate a named GP to all patients by 31 March 2016, and tell patients who this is at the ‘next appropriate interaction’. Many practices have already carried out clinical searches to find out which GP the patient has had most interaction with, and this shouldn’t be too much of a problem to update for regular attenders. However, for those patients who don’t attend the practice at least once a year this will mean having to contact them in some way.
The extension of some enhanced services is a financial relief to a certain extent, although the withdrawal of the patient participation enhanced service will probably make some practices rethink their level of involvement in the future, even if associated funding will be reinvested into the global sum. I don’t think the publication of GP average net earnings (to include contractor and salaried GPs) relating to 2014/15, as well as the number of full- and part-time GPs associated with the published figure, will be popular either, and may cause considerable resentment.
The 2015/16 contract and associated documentation will be available on NHS England’s website later this month.
What is required of GPs in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
‘The 2015/16 Welsh GP contract is likely to involve only minimal changes, so GP practices will not need to undertake many tasks to prepare for its arrival. However, the previously signposted work to build on collaboration in GP clusters will continue.’ – Dr David Bailey, deputy chair of GPC Wales
‘Negotiations have begun in Northern Ireland and we will be looking for a reduction in the total number of QOF points and an increase in funding for the GMS contract but GPs do not as yet have any specific preparation to undertake for the 2015/16 contract.’ – Dr Tom Black, chair of GPC Northern Ireland
‘The BMA’s Scottish GPs Committee has agreed a three-year contract with the Scottish Government that runs from 2014 to 2017, so GPs will not have any specific preparation to undertake before April, apart from rewriting QOF strategies to reflect the new, smaller framework.’ - Dr Alan McDevitt, chair of BMA Scotland