A GP must be physically present at all times during PCN weekday evening and Saturday enhanced access appointments, NHS England has confirmed.
Earlier this month, the BMA GP Committee advised that a GP must be ‘available’, but not necessarily ‘physically’ present during enhanced access shifts offered by PCNs under the new DES.
This was based on ambiguity in the wording of the contract document.
However, NHS England has now said that a GP is required to be physically present at all times.
An NHS England spokesperson told Management in Practice’s sister title Pulse: ‘From October, all primary care networks will be required to ensure a GP is available to see patients face-to-face on Saturdays between 9am and 5pm, as is already the case in many parts of the country.’
They confirmed on background that this means a GP must be physically present at one GP practice within a PCN area throughout the whole enhanced access service period – 9am-5pm on Saturdays and 6.30pm-8pm on weekdays.
The network DES said that enhanced access services should be ‘delivered by a multi-disciplinary team of healthcare professionals employed or engaged by the PCN’s core network practices, including GPs, nurses and additional roles [staff] and other persons employed or engaged by the PCN to assist the healthcare professional in the provision of health services’.
However, it added: ‘A PCN must ensure GP cover during the Network Standard Hours providing in-person face-to-face consultations, remote consultations, leadership, clinical oversight and supervision of the MDT.’
It comes as Pulse revealed last week that PCNs will need to provide GP appointments covering the ‘full’ periods of 9-5 on Saturdays and 6.30pm-8pm on weekdays.
It was previously unclear whether PCNs were required to provide appointments throughout the whole period rather than just within the stated hours.
The BMA last week said that NHS England has rejected its requests for certain relaxations of the DES, including around Saturday opening times and GP availability for the new extended hours service.
It has repeatedly encouraged practices to consider their ongoing participation in PCNs.
Practices have until 30 April to opt out of the DES without breaching their contract as part of the current annual opt-out window, but may have additional 30-day windows to do so if any in-year changes are made to the enhanced service specification.
Meanwhile, GPs attending the annual conference of UK local medical committees (LMCs) next month will vote on policy to reduce core GP hours to 9am until 5pm.