Do you remember last year’s backlash against the four days practices had ‘off’ at Christmas and New Year? You and I know that two of these were Saturday and Sunday but to the media this was a four-day holiday! Did this influence what you did when Easter came around? Many practices felt obliged to open on Easter Saturday.
Have you thought about what are you going to do this year? Christmas and Boxing Day fall on a Friday and Saturday, which means we could close on Thursday 24 December at 6pm and not re-open until 8am on Tuesday 29 December. In Scotland, it would be the same the following week. Assuming there is no diktat from above and the practice still has the freedom to choose, the sooner you can agree the dates you will close the better as there are lots of issues to think about.
If you are to take the full break – are your arrangements robust? Patients should be informed, well in advance, of when the practice will be closed, the alternative arrangements, including contact telephone numbers, reminders about ordering enough prescribed medication and stocking up on basics, eg, cold remedies. Notices should be displayed throughout the practice, the library and local pharmacies. Put messages on the right hand side of prescriptions and the practice website.
Think back to last year, and that first day back after Christmas, when all hell breaks loose – were there enough staff around, both clinical and admin. Do you need to revise the rotas to address this?
If you decide to open, how will you man the extra shifts and sessions? Do you need locum GPs and bank nurses to achieve this? Work this out and get advertising – now! Locums are likely to charge a premium for such unpopular dates, so think about how much you are prepared to pay. Develop a back-up plan.
How will you encourage admin staff (and cleaners) to work on a public holiday/weekend – overtime, enhanced rates, time in lieu? If you wish to negotiate permanent changes to employment contracts 1 you will have to take immediate action to ensure enough time for full consultation with staff.
Iron all of this out now and hopefully you will have a much easier passage into 2016. Happy Christmas when it comes!
1. ACAS. Changing or varying a contract. acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3971 (accessed 21 August 2015).