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Extended hours takeup rises again

By Joanne Ellul

Nearly all PCTs now have half of their GP practices offering weekend and evening appointments, new Department of Health figures reveal.

99.3% of PCTs have now achieved the original Operating Framework target of 50% of their GP practices offering extended hours, with 97 more practices offered extended opening hours in March than in February. Only Shropshire County PCT has not yet reached the original target.

Liz Welsh, the PCT's senior commissioning manager, said the trust would be speaking to ten practices about extended hours services in the next few weeks.

''Some GPs have already committed to OOH co-operatives and staff have young families which means they are reluctant to commit themselves to extended hours,' she said.

Nationally there has also been a 2.6% rise, from 42.8% to 45.4%, in the percentage of PCTs with 75% or more of practices offering extended hours. This brings the Government close to reaching Prime Minister Gordon Brown's fresh target of three quarters of GP practices offering extended hours by the end of the year.

In total, 73.5% of practices - 6,069 in total - now offer extended opening hours, up from 72.4% in February. Two PCTs - NHS Darlington and NHS Wiltshire - have all of their practices offering extended hours.

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