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PCTs to claw back millions from extended hours budget

By Steve Nowottny

Ministers plan to claw back millions of pounds originally set aside for to pay for the extended hours drive, Pulse can reveal.

The Department of Health's original financial estimates for the extended hours project show the £158m Extended Access DES was costed on the basis of every practice in the country opening at evenings and weekends – rather than the 50% uptake which was the Government's published target.

According to the latest uptake figures published earlier this month, 59% of practices now offer extended hours.

But GP leaders warned with a significant minority of practices unwilling to take part, much of the funding reallocated to pay for extended opening would be lost.

A Department of Health spokesperson said it was still collecting information on how much PCTs had spent on extended hours, but that trusts would be left to decide what to do with unspent money.

‘Where underspends are identified from the 2008/9 Extended Access DES, it will be for PCTs to determine how these can be utilised in 2009-10 and in future years,' she said.

Dr Trefor Roscoe, a GP in Sheffield and former member of the GPC, said: ‘If the Government has costed it at 100%, where is the other half of the money that they took off us to fund this going? Has this money been released back into GP budgets?

‘Otherwise it has in fact reduced spending on general practice by £75 million a year and got what the political soundbites required.'

Dr Robert Morley, secretary of Birmingham LMC, said: ‘I don't think extended opening will go anywhere near 100%. It may be 60% or 70% but obviously the practices that haven't gone for extended hours have looked at what's on offer and it hasn't made sense for them and their patients.'

‘The likelihood is this money isn't going to be fully spent and the Government will say we threw money at general practice, but they can't be bothered to do anything for it.'

The costings also reveal the Government rejected a cheaper extended hours model, based on an average practice opening two additional hours a week with GP and nurse appointments. All estimates were based on staff costs only, taking no account of increased utility and administration costs.

The Department of Health had originally refused to publish its costings, but released them to Pulse after a year-long appeal to the Information Commissioner.

PCTs to claw back millions from extending opening hours budgets

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