The NHS is a planned health service, right? Command and control is rife, isn’t it? There’s no planning blight? No, of course not, but once there was an annual planning cycle with plans traditionally launched at Christmas, when we are at our most attentive. No longer!

NHS England and NHS Improvement have published planning guidance, for a two-year period from April 2017 to March 2019, setting out new orders and priorities for Sustainability Transformation Plans, hospital and community providers and Clinical Commissioning Groups.

Dave West of the Health Service Journal identifies two main themes in the new guidance: a “breakneck” timetable for delivery, and the movement towards “managing the NHS through whole systems, not separate organisations”. So expect more mergers and efforts at integration, and lots more perturbation in the NHS.

There is no shortage of micro-management, though. The guidance states that CCGs must make plans to extend GP consultation hours. CCGs should commission at least an extra 30 minutes of GP consultation time for every 1,000 people in their populations. It is intended that this should eventually rise to 45 minutes per 1,000 population.

On weekdays General Practices should offer pre-bookable and same day appointments after 6.30pm to provide an extra hour and a half of consultation time per day, and pre-bookable same day appointments on both Saturdays and Sundays. They should use “digital approaches to support new models of care” in general practice.

In addition CCGs should provide “robust evidence” for which services should be available throughout the week, and ensure uptake of the expanded services is automatically measured.

All this will be very popular in general practice, so we should expect some huffing and puffing from local medical committees and the BMA, very soon.