£3,300 a year for late opening
GP practices look set to receive as little as £3,300 a year to offer longer opening hours, the first Government figures on extended opening reveal.
GPs in Scotland will be given £10m across just over a thousand practices to offer extended hours as part of its programme of work ‘over the next three years'.
The figure is far below estimates from GPs for how much it would cost practices to extend their hours.
One estimate put the cost at £6,000 for a 30,000 patient practice, but GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden this week claimed it would cost his 8,000-patient practice £98,000 a year to open longer.
Opening hours have been at the top of the political agenda for several months, but this week's announcement from the Scottish Executive is the first time any of the four devolved Governments has put a price tag on the plan.
But the Scottish Executive refused to say how or where the money would be distributed, and health bosses are remaining tight-lipped over how much GPs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be paid.
Dr Dean Marshall, chair of the Scottish GPC, said he was not aware of the £10m figure, which was buried in the Scottish Executive's submission to the Doctors' and Dentists' Review body, published this week.
No such figure had been discussed with GPC Scotland, he added, and if incentives were to be introduced at all they should be on a local rather than national basis.
‘I've yet to see any evidence this is a major issue among patients in Scotland. Where there is evidence of an unmet need that extended hours would resolve, that should be done at a local level.'
The Department of Health said it had calculated the cost of extending GP opening hours, but refused to reveal how much the plans will cost taxpayers. Pulse has submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act for this information.
Dr Charles Alessi, a GP in Kingston in southwest London and a leading advocate of extended opening, has estimated offering evening and weekend surgeries cost his practice £6,000 a year.
But that estimate was based on GPs working a rotating shift system rather than extra hours, and at many practices it could cost more, he warned.Opening hours Late opening cost 'is why we need a cap on GP pay' Late opening cost 'is why we need a cap on GP pay'
NHS chiefs in Scotland say the £10m needed to pay for extended hours over the next three years is one of the rea-sons why resources should not be ‘diverted into unneces-sary large pay increases for GPs'.
The report on key service developments north of the border says the money will go to ‘extended opening hours for GP surgeries to make primary care more accessible, especially to working people so they do not need to take time off work to see their GP'.