Important changes to the GP contract* - Patient Participation Groups a contractual requirement in England

From 1 April 2015, it will be a contractual requirement for all English practices to form a patient participation group (PPG) during the year ahead and to make reasonable efforts for this to be representative of the practice population. Having a PPG is already the norm for most practices and is expected for CQC inspection. The practice must engage with the PPG including obtaining patient feedback and, where the practice and PPG agree, will act on suggestions for improvement.  Practices will be required to confirm through the e-declaration that they have fulfilled these requirements. The change will reduce practices' PPG workload as reporting requirements (set out in the previous optional “enhanced service” clauses) will be withdrawn.

The practice PPG will need to enable the involvement of carers of registered patients but who themselves are not registered patients.  

Since April 2011, having a PPG has been an enhanced service i.e. an optional clause in the GP contract which attracted extra funding – currently 35p per registered patient.   This will cease on 31 March 2015 and the associated funding will be reinvested in “global sum” i.e. the standard contract. This change follows feedback from practices that excessive monitoring and reporting required for the enhanced service has detracted from the purpose of patient participation.

* The GMS (General Medical Services) contract is negotiated annually by the trade union of the medical profession, the British Medical Association (BMA), and NHS Employers, which is the Human Resources / workforce arm of the NHS.  It sets out the terms for the vast majority of general practices which are independent contractors to the NHS, and determines what services the practices must deliver, the targets to be reached and the funds which will follow from meeting these.  Some practices also employ salaried GPs.

(*The contracts for England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales have differing priorities)

Other significant changes

Publication of GP net earnings - practices will publish average net earnings (to include contractor and salaried GPs) relating to 2014/15, as well as the number of full and part time GPs associated with the published figure.

Named GP for all patients - The named GP requirement will be extended to all patients. By 31 March 2016 all practices will need to include on their website reference to the fact that all patients (including children) have been allocated a named, accountable GP

Patients' appointment booking -
  the contract will be amended to expand the number of appointments booked online and to ensure that there is appropriate availability of appointments for online booking.

Patients' online access to medical records -  Patient online access to their medical record will be widened in 2015/16, but some flexibility for practices in how this is implemented has been negotiated. In 2014/15, the GMS contract required practices to provide online access to summary information i.e. medications, allergies, adverse reactions and any other items of data agreed between the patient and practice.

Promoting use of IT

Further details from NHS Employers or the BMA websites

PPGs and the GP contract