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Government reaches 50% target for extended hours

By Gareth Iacobucci

The Government today announced it had smashed its figure of getting half of GP surgeries to offer extended hours and promised to crack down on LMCs who are still holding out against the plans.

The Department of Health said that in less than six months there had been a 40% increase in the number of practices with more flexible early morning, evening and weekend opening.

As of the end of September, it said, 8,275, or 51%, of practices were offering extended hours.

The Department had set a target of the end of this year to hit the 50% mark and health minister Ben Bradshaw said today the figures would force those PCTS who had not achieved similar results to act to make sure GPs in their area followed suit.

It also pointed the finger at some LMCs for holding up the process but vowed that every SHA would meet the target.

Mr Bradshaw, who visited a GP practice offering extended hours in West London this morning, said: ‘I was interested and encouraged by the enthusiasm of staff. They're surprised at how popular it is.

‘It's not ‘yuppies' as David Cameron said (who are using extended hours). It is hard-working families who pay their taxes'.

‘It tends to be a virtuous circle. Patients vote with their feet, and money follows the patient. The pressure comes from patients for surgeries to offer a lot more times.'

He added: ‘Every SHA will achieve 50%. The combination of pressure and the embarrassment factor on PCTs (who are not achieving targets) should be sufficient to exert the right pressure on PCT managers.

‘Having achieved free choice in acute care, the challenge was to do the same in primary care. This is an important step towards that.'

Dr Mike Warburton, national director for the National GP Access Programme at the Department, said: ‘Every PCT is committed.' He said there were different things holding back extended hours in some areas.

‘Sometimes it's the size of the practice, sometimes it's the LMC'.

South East Coast SHA leads the pack in meeting extended hours targets, with 100% of PCTs in its area recording 50% of more practices meeting the target.

North West SHA has the furthest to go with nearly one in five of its PCTs still offering no extended hours at all as at the end of September.

Ben Bradshaw: says some LMCs are still holding up the process Ben Bradshaw: says some LMCs are still holding up the process

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