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GP practices in England 'open longer than most European equivalents'

More evidence is needed to extend GP opening hours, as core hours in English GP practices are already longer than most of their counterparts across Europe, finds a new study.

The study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine benchmarked the current general practice hours with other European systems and found that ‘standard opening hours in England already exceed those of most other European countries’.

It also said that, in comparison, patients in the UK were ‘satisfied with out-of-hours access to general practice’.

The study comes despite a £1.5bn drive into delivering 8 ’til 8 GP opening seven days a week by 2021, despite equivocal evidence on patient demand for the service and whether it takes the pressure off A&E departments.

The researchers looked at the obligatory minimum hours that GP practices must be open across 21 countries, ranking England fourth behind Spain, Portugal and Malta.

They found that 80% of English respondents were able to make an appointment with their GP that they found convenient when they last attempted and 80% of patients were satisfied with the opening hours of their general practice.

Standard hours for general practices in England were stated as 8am to 6:30 pm, from Monday to Friday, equating to 52.5 hours per week. 

But in Hungary they were foud to be two to four hours a day, in Cyprus 7:30 am until 2:30 pm (with opening to 6 pm one night per week) and in Italy hours varied based on number of patients, but was between five to 15 hours per week.

Lead author of the study Dr Benedict Hayhoe, a GP in central London and clinical lecturer at Imperial College London, said: ‘With so many competing priorities for NHS resources, and existing primary care services significantly under resourced, we feel that stronger evidence of real need and patient demand would be necessary to justify further extension of GP opening hours.’

Readers' comments (7)

  • Azeem Majeed

    More evidence that the NHS should focus on improving access to primary care services during routine opening hours, rather than investing in untested extended opening hours schemes.

    DOI: I am an author of the paper.

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  • If they want it, they can pay properly for it!

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  • I can buy 15 appointments before 6.30 for the price of 10 appointments after 6.30pm.
    We need to appointments but it is criminal that we are forced to offer these appointments so late for the sole purpose of political vanity.
    There is and out of hours service after all!

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  • Vinci Ho

    Remember it was about satisfying the Cameron/Hunt’s ego to become the first country in the world to have seven days eight to eight opening in general practice . But of course , they are not willing to pay the ‘full price’ for that.
    Now all these MCP , PACS and ultimately, integrated ACOs are all based on a 7 days GP opening setting.
    And then , people would say ,’it’s ok ; GPs will work by scale; no problem’.

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  • GPs will not work by scale. They are RLE and the rate is escalating.

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  • At scale agree ,never will would rather push trolleys round Tesco’s

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  • AlanAlmond

    Not only are we open longer, our appointments are significantly shorter. 15 mins/consultation is standard in France. 5 -10 is fairly standard here. I wonder if GPs are the ‘go to’ government medical scape-goat in Europe, I suspect not, but we most certainly are here. The UK is a crap place to work as a GP.

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