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Extended hours ‘to cost £98k a year’

Offering extended opening hours will cost an average GP practice in the region of £98,000 a year, according to GPC negotiators' private estimates.

The ‘back of a fag packet' calculations, originally made by negotiators two years ago but revealed for the first time to Pulse this week, suggest the Government's plans on opening hours would be a huge drain on NHS funds.

If half of practices offered longer hours, as the Government wants, and were fully funded to do so, it would cost taxpayers almost £400m a year.

The GPC estimates are based upon an average 8,000-patient practice opening half-staffed for three hours an evening, two evenings a week, and for three hours on a Saturday morning. On this basis, the extra staff pay and overheads would cost GPs about £12.25 per patient.

GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden, who based the estimates on his own practice, said: ‘It's not like opening a supermarket. Tesco does not have the board of directors on the shop floor. The overheads are fairly marginal, but the staff will all be on overtime.

‘It's open to PCTs to commission that now if they want it. I take it as read that the reason they haven't is they don't think it's good value for money.'

The estimate comes as a blow to advocates of extended opening, who have argued extra costs could be kept to a minimum by operating staff shifts. One practice in Kingston in south-west London has estimated moving to extended hours cost it just £6,000 a year.

But evidence submitted by the Scottish Executive last week suggests GPs may only get a fraction of their costs covered.

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