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Independents' Day

NHS pushing for all GPs to extend surgery hours

By Steve Nowottny

NHS managers are stepping up the extended hours drive by pushing for all GPs to start offering evening and weekend appointments, Pulse can reveal.

At least two PCTs in the south west are pressing all practices to offer extended opening by March 2010, following an edict from the strategic health authority.

Elsewhere, emails released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal managers plan to sign up practices for extended hours on flexible terms - only to toughen conditions up later.

Somerset PCT and Bath and Northeast Somerset PCT told Pulse they were working towards universal provision of extended hours following publication of NHS South West's strategic framework last month.

The framework calls for ‘all patients to have an option available to them of extended opening hours in general practice by 31 March 2010'.

Somerset PCT said: ‘From our point of view the thing that makes most sense is to see general practice working to extend opening hours as flexibly as they can, at a pace they can deliver.'

A spokesperson for Bath and Northeast Somerset PCT said most practices were already offering extended hours: ‘We anticipate the remaining few practices will be adopting extended hours in advance of the deadline of 31 March 2010.'

Dr Barry Moyse, chair of Somerset LMC, said he understood PCTs across the south west had an ‘aspiration' to hit 100%.

‘A few brave martyrs might stand against it but I see no reason why this will not be generally achieved,' he said. ‘Extended hours will join prescribing costs, adherence to formulary and referral via Choose and Book - we will just have to get used to it.'

But Dr Peter Fellows, GPC representative for Gloucestershire and Avon LMCs, said: ‘There is no demand for out-of-hours surgeries and we do not ourselves have the manpower to offer them. The Government can take a running jump. If they try and impose then I will retire immediately.'

Meanwhile, an email exchange obtained by Pulse reveals a PCT's plans to lure GPs into offering extended hours.

Damien Riley, Director of Primary Care at NHS Leeds, told SHA bosses: ‘The easiest way to overcome resistance is to get something going, and then let market forces refine it in due course. Even if rules get stricter, it will be harder for practices to stop providing.'

Managers are stepping up the pressure on practices to open evenings and weekends Managers are stepping up the pressure on practices to open evenings and weekends

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