NHS England, Government and BMA agree new GP contract for 2017/18

NHS England, the Government, and the British Medical Association’s General Practitioners Committee have reached agreement on changes to the general practice contract in England that will benefit both patients and GPs.

The new agreement includes an increased focus on some of the most vulnerable, with tailored annual reviews offered to over 65’s living with frailty, and an increase in the number of health checks for people with learning disabilities.

The new contract also includes provisions to encourage practices to expand access and not to close for half-a-day a week. GP practices which regularly close for mornings or afternoons on a week day will lose their eligibility for the current extended hours scheme claimed by most practices. Practices who club together with other GPs in their local area to offer more evening and weekend appointments will be eligible for extra non-contractual funding over and above the current scheme.

Strengthening requirements in the 2016/17 contract, general practices will also help determine a new patient’s eligibility for NHS healthcare. This will help with the identification of patients from the European Economic Area  and should make it easier for the NHS to reclaim money from their home countries.

The new contract, to take effect from 01 April 2017, will see investment of around £238 million going into the contract for 2017/18.

In addition, £157 million from a previous earmarked scheme will be transferred into core GP funding so that family doctors can be more flexible in how they care for the most frail.

This is part of NHS England’s plan, set out in the General Practice Forward View last year, to reverse previous years of under-investment in general practice.

For GPs, agreement has been reached to cover the rising costs for practices in a number of key areas, including costs of CQC inspection, indemnity costs, and other areas of workload. NHS England has also agreed with the BMA that a group will be set up after April 2017 to discuss the future of the payment arrangements known as “QOF”.

The investment announced will provide a pay uplift of one per cent for GPs with other agreed changes including:

  • Increased investments into a scheme to help GP retention
  • Improved payment arrangements to cover parental leave and sickness absence.

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, said: “We’re now turning the corner on a decade of underinvestment in GP services, but with new cash clearly tied to new ways of working that both improve patient care and support  family doctors. While this new national contract is just one piece of the jigsaw, it’s another concrete step towards more convenient appointments for patients and more time for GPs to look after frail older people.”

Dr. Arvind Madan, NHS England Director of Primary Care, said: ‘This is really positive news, especially the agreement between NHS and the BMA to put a mainstream focus on frail older patients. This will help GPs focus their time and resources on the areas that matter most to their patients.”