GPs are not yet contractually obliged to offer a response to patients the first time they get in contact, the BMA has confirmed.
The union said that the new requirement for GPs to offer a response to patients the first time they get in touch with their practice will not come into effect until signed off by Parliament.
Our sister publication Pulse understands that the publishing of the new access requirement regulations is imminent, and the contract will be updated to make clear that patients ‘should be offered an assessment of need, or signposted to an appropriate service, at first contact with the practice’ after NHS England imposed changes last month.
The BMA expressed concerns around the new requirement, saying it believes it ‘is not achievable for many practices with current resource and workforce.’
And at the end of last month, GP Committee England made clear that the new contractual ban on asking patients to call back at a different time will not mean having to offer them an appointment on first contact.
Now, in an update to practices, Dr Kieran Sharrock, GPC England acting chair, confirmed that the changes will not come into effect until laid before Parliament.
He said: ‘Note that changes on access to general practice services have not been laid before Parliament and ICBs will therefore not have sent contract variations to practices.
‘This means the changes have not yet come into effect. We will share further information on this imposed contractual change as soon as it is available.’
While the union said there is ‘no standardised system for care navigation or triage in general practice’, it has offered tools to ‘support practices to implement a system that can be adapted to a practice’s individual circumstances.’ The guidance sets out the benefits of implementing a triage system, includes examples of triage flowcharts and covers steps for GP practices to take to make triage work for both clinicians and patients.
The guidance said: ‘Ensuring that patients are seen by the appropriate clinician in the right place and at the right time, supports good patient care and experience, reduces pressure on GP practices and allows GPs to spend their time where it is needed the most.
‘Care navigation and clinical triage allow practices to prioritise patients with the most urgent health needs, ensure they see the most appropriate clinician or are signposted to alternative services.’
A version of this story was first published on our sister title Pulse.