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The waiting game

Number of GP practices offering extended hours appointments increasing

Some 40% of patients could make routine GP appointments in evenings and at weekends in March, the latest NHS England data have shown.

An NHS England survey of 6,892 GP practices found that 805 practices, with a combined 5.4 million patients, did not offer any extended hours provision when the latest data were collected in March.

This was down from 826 practices at the latest count, in September 2017. 

The survey asked practices about their extended access provision, whether it is through a DES or through the GP Access Fund, which sees CCGs given £3 per patient to set up extended access hubs.

The data, published this month, come as NHS England planning guidance requires CCGs to provide ‘extended access to GP services, including at evenings and weekends, for 100% of their population by 1 October 2018’.

The target for 2017/18 was 40% and data have been collected twice a year since October 2016.

The latest statistics also showed:

  • 2,821 practices offer patients ‘access to pre-bookable appointments on Saturdays, and on Sundays, and on each weekday for at least 1.5 hours: in the early morning before 8am, in the evening after 6.30pm or both in the morning and evening’, covering 40% of registered patients.
  • 3,266 practices offer ‘partial provision’ to patients, with extended access available on at least one day of the week.

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP Committee chair, said: 'While schemes like this are rolled out and are successful in providing the services they are commissioned to do, we still believe the money invested in such programmes would be better spent improving core GP services.

'We know that patients are frustrated with being unable to get timely appointments during regular working hours, owing to increased demand and unmanageable GP workloads, and therefore it is these services that should be priority for proper funding.'

A number of CCGs would likely have introduced additional extended access services at the start of the new financial year on 1 April. 

Readers' comments (5)

  • I suspect the cost of 2 extended hours appointments is the same as 3 daytime appointments. Practices will take advantage of any offers for funding for more clinicians, in or out of hours, as it takes a bit of pressure of the capacity funded by inadequate core contracts.
    It's still a scandalous waste of resources in a poor system to ignore the opportunity cost of providing these late appts.

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  • With CCG and LMC pimping, lots of them will sell - that's always been a foregone conclusion. Only, somebody corners the lion's share of spoils - red light rule.

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  • AlanAlmond

    It’s great to see NHS England valiantly fighting to make sure patients up and down the country can’t get to see their preferred GP. Heart warming that continuity of care continues to be dismantled in this way, and reassuring to hear the program rolls on. Always these guys are fighting for what patients, time and again, survey after survey, say they want, appointments on a Sunday with a Dr they don’t know. Great work guys, truly your doing great work.

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  • I think this is a bit of a fudge. Very few local practices around here offer extended hours because the renumetation is derisory to say the least. I suspect though that our area will be included as offering routine OOH appts through a local federation hub but in truth these are only accessible via 111. We did offer routine Saturday morning clinics which were well liked and used by our patients but the funding was removed to provide these hubs, which in my view offer a substandard service compared to what we provided for our own patients.

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  • doctordog.

    Funding is the only reason we stopped offering extended hours.
    Problem is, we will soon be financially penalised for not offering this as core services.

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