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The NHS Employers and the General Practitioners Committee (GPC) of the BMA have announced changes to the GMS contract in England for 2016/17, but what do the GP contract changes mean for you and your practice?

The general focus of the contract is to help alleviate some of the financial pressures facing practices through a significant £220m investment into general practice, together with changes to Enhanced Services and patient access to service.

The initial GP contract changes for 2016/17 were announced in February, but further details have since come to light:

Practice funding and expenses

In recognition of the growing financial pressures facing GP practices, NHS England and GPC have agreed an investment of £220m into the contract for 2016/17. This significant investment covers a pay uplift of 1%, an increase in the item of service fee for vaccinations and immunisations to £9.80, a change to the value of a QOF point (as a result of a Contractor Population Index adjustment) and supplementary practice funding to cover business expenses, including additional CQC costs. This is the first time that GP contract changes have given clear appreciation and additional funding to support practices with rising CQC fees.

Patient access to service

Over the last few years, changes have been made through the GP contract aimed at increasing the uptake of patient online services. The GP contract changes for 2016/17 include further non-contractual changes to patient online access, including targets to increase electronic referrals and targets to encourage more patients to use at least one online service.

Essentially, the contract focuses on using digital technology to facilitate greater electronic resource sharing and improvements in the provision of online services.

Enhanced Services

The Dementia Enhanced Service ended on 31 March 2016. Its £42m funding has been reinvested into core GP funding. During 2016, dementia diagnosis rates will be monitored and the position will be reviewed for 2017/18 if there is a significant change.

The avoiding unplanned admissions (AUA) Enhanced Service will continue for a further year. Additionally, the extended hours and learning disabilities enhanced services will also be extended and continue unchanged for a further year.

QOF

The GPC and the government have agreed to explore a complete scrapping of QOF in England. This discussion comes after the Scottish government announced their decision to scrap the “outdated” QOF system of payments for GPs, phasing it out from April 2016. When QOF is scrapped in Scotland an alternative payment scheme will replace it.

In the meantime, for 2016/17, there will be no change to the number of QOF points available and no changes to thresholds for 2016/17 (planned changes have been deferred for one year). As mentioned above, CPI will be adjusted to increase the value of QOF points to reflect the changes in list size and population growth.

Other contract changes

  • NHS England will set a maximum indicative rate based on a set of rates (which may have some degree of regional variation) for locum doctors’ pay. NHS England will amend the electronic declaration system to include recording on the number of instances where a practice pays a locum doctor more than the maximum indicative rate.
  • NHS England and GPC have also agreed to take forward discussions in the coming months on a number of other areas.
  • To record data, every six months, on the availability of evening and weekend opening for routine appointments.

In summary

This article has covered the main elements and changes to the new GP contract for 2016/17, as announced by the NHS Employers and the General Practitioners Committee of the BMA.

The changes to the GP contract for 2016/17 are far fewer than in previous years.

More from our GP practice experts

You can find all of our latest GP practice sector news and newsletters here.

If you are looking for advice in a particular area, please get in touch with your usual Hawsons contact.

Alternatively, we offer all new clients a free initial meeting to have a discussion about their own personal circumstances – find out more or book your free initial meeting here. We have offices in Sheffield, Doncaster and Northampton.

Scott Sanderson began his career with Hawsons and trained as a Chartered Accountant, becoming a partner in 2015, specialising in the healthcare sector and small businesses. For more details and advice, please contact Scott on [email protected] or 0114 266 7141.

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