The number of general practitioner (GP) practices that informed NHS England that they would reduce their opening hours and not offer face-to-face appointments at any point over the 2014-15 Christmas and New Year period is not held centrally.
NHS England wrote to all GP practices in September 2014 giving details of expectations over the Christmas and New Year period, including that:
- 24 December 2014 and 31 December 2014 were to be considered normal working days and therefore NHS England expected all practices to be open as normal, along with partner health and social care agencies.
- Each practice was required to detail the practice opening times and provide availability for telephone access and face to face appointments.
- If a patient was not able to speak to the practice’s receptionist during core hours (08.00-18.30hrs Monday to Friday, excluding Bank Holidays) over the holiday period, the practice should confirm what arrangements were in place to deliver their contractual obligations.
- Practices that provided extended hours on 24 or 31 December were reminded that they may wish to move these hours to another day within the week, where it was part of the practice’s broader plans to manage expected demand over that period.
- The practice retained responsibility for ensuring that the care provided during core hours was appropriate to meet the reasonable needs of patients.
- If the practice was not open during core hours, then patients needed to have absolute clarity about how to access essential services.