Practices right to close in-hours for training will be protected by NHS England.
In a meeting, NHS England told the British Medical Association’s GP Committee and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) it was “committed” to upholding the right to close for training without risking breach of contract.
Last month 12 London-based practices were issued breach of contract notices for closing early on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Some GPs feared this approach would also apply to practice closures for training.
Dr Bob Morley, chair of the GPC contracts and regulations subcommittee, said the initial talks were positive and said NHS England seemed ‘committed’ to reaching a compromise and avoiding another ‘debacle’ like the row over Christmas opening hours.
He said: “[The meeting] was very positive and constructive […] Clearly some further work needs to be done, and I expect that NHSE will take this forward with GPC now. And I’m sure we can reach a position of shared understanding to make sure there’s no repeat of the complete debacle we had over this Christmas.
“[NHS England] certainly seem committed to want CCGs to be able to support practice training whilst ensuring that the reasonable needs of patients are met, and that this needs to be determined in a consistent way nationally.
“This was an initial meeting which will be taken forward in discussion. Funding wasn’t discussed, it was more about how practice participation could be facilitated in practical terms rather than money.”
NHS England has said the meeting was to discuss how GPs can ‘attend networking and learning events’ without reducing patient access, or risk breaching their contractual terms.
A spokesperson for NHS England told Management in Practice’s sister publication Pulse: “The meeting gave us a really good start point for discussions and on agreeing a variety of areas of common ground.
“We will be working closely with GPC with the intention of developing a framework for practices and area teams to work to in considering the issue of meeting the needs of patients whilst recognising the pressures on practices.”