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DH launches national marketing drive for extended hours

By Steve Nowottny

PCTs are ramping up their efforts to promote competition and choice in general practice with a major new marketing drive aimed at attracting patients to practices that are offering extended hours.

The Department of Health has ordered all PCTs to highlight to patients those practices offering evening and weekend appointments, alongside publicity for GP-led health centres and the wave of new APMS practices in underdoctored areas.

Marketing materials are to be delivered to patients' homes from this week and will promote extended hours, new services, including GP-led health centres, and patient choice of GPs and hospitals.

The DH has ordered the marketing drive to get round the restrictions on practices advertising their own services to patients, GPs told Pulse.

Dr Donal Hynes, vice-chair of the NHS Alliance and a GP in Bridgwater, Somerset, welcomed the move – and said his practice has already attracted new patients since starting extended hours.

‘When groups of practices around the country are doing things that are very innovative it's nice that the DH is prepared to blow their trumpet for them,' he said.

‘Because of the restriction on advertising, very often the local population doesn't know about it and therefore practices don't get the rewards and recognition they should do.'

But LMC leaders in some areas said their input into exercise had been largely ignored.

Dr Barry Moyse, chairman of Somerset LMC, said: ‘We in Somerset did not know the DH was directing this but had been given to understand that the PCT had thought of it itself. This explains why, when we asked to look at a draft, we were told we could but that no undertaking to alter the text could be given.

‘The LMC's main comment was it was a shame there was no mention of Somerset practices' excellent record of patient satisfaction with access and opening times before extended hours was forced down our throats to satisfy a central political agenda.'

Dr Eric Wilkinson, a GP in Southborne, West Sussex, added: ‘At a time of financial uncertainty this is a spectacular waste of precious NHS resources.'

PCTs are ramping up competition with marketing drive focusig on those surgeries offering extended hours PCTs are ramping up competition with marketing drive

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