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Ministers get tough on extended hours

By Gareth Iacobucci

Ministers have vowed to step up pressure on PCTs that have failed to get at least half of practices signed up to extended hours.

The threat came after new figures last week revealed more than half of trusts had hit the 50% target by the end of September. GP leaders reacted by urging rebel LMCs to continue their show of defiance against the extended hours rollout.

The figures highlighted huge regional variations, with some areas still contending with big pockets of resistance from GPs. In the North West SHA area, one in five PCTs reported that no surgeries at all were offering extended hours.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said it was up to lagging PCTs to offer better incentives to GPs. ‘The DES is inflexible. Where uptake is 50%, it's because PCTs have a flexible LES in place. My advice is that those PCTs that are struggling should look at colleagues elsewhere for models of success and import them.'

He added: ‘We shouldn't expect every practice to do this. Some have accepted they will lose money if they don't do it.'

The Government said that by the end of September 8,275 practices – some 51% - were offering extended hours. Health minister Ben Bradshaw vowed to impose tougher sanctions on SHAs and PCTs which failed to meet the 50% target.

Dr Mike Warburton, director for the National GP Access Programme at the department, claimed every PCT was committed to the drive to roll out extended hours and blamed GP resistance for holding back progress in some areas. ‘Sometimes it's the size of the practice, sometimes it's the LMC,' he said.

Dr Mohammed Jiva, secretary of Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale LMC, which has a take up of just over one in 10 practices, said: ‘We have no responsibility to work towards what the DH wants. Our responsibility is to work with local GPs and local PCTs. If uptake isn't high, the DH may push PCTs to further develop a LES.'

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