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PM's seven-day GP access pilot scrapped after proving 'unpopular with patients'

Exclusive CCG leaders have pulled the plug on their seven-day GP access pilot after just one in 10 appointments were filled despite ‘considerable promotion’ of the scheme.

Pulse has learnt that NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby CCG - one of the first areas funded under the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund scheme - will end at the end of this month, after only four months of full operation.

CCG leaders say the pilot was not a good use of resources as only 12% of appointments on Sundays were filled and less than 50% of slots booked on a Saturday. Patients also did not like the ‘hub’ model, because they preferred to be seen in their own practice.

The news comes as a blow to the PM’s plans to roll out seven-day GP access to all by 2020 and comes after Pulse revealed CCGs in some areas of the country were also rethinking their extended access plans due to lack of demand and cost-effectiveness.

The first wave of the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund pilots were funded by £50 million for 2014/15 and a second wave is being rolled out this year to the tune of £100 million, with the aim of funding the trials to run extended GP access for one year.

The ‘Open for Longer’ scheme was operated by the CCG-wide GP federation, the Heartbeat Alliance, and began in October 2014, funded by the first wave of the fund.

However the north Yorkshire scheme was only operational in Whitby since October last year and from February this year across Hambleton and Richmondshire and is now due to end on 30 June.

Commenting on the decision, which was taken ‘following ongoing evaluation’, CCG clinical lead Dr Vicky Pleydell said it was taken because it proved unpopular with patients.

She said: ‘Despite considerable promotion, including through the GPs surgeries when booking, only 12% of appointments on Sundays were filled and less than 50% of slots booked on a Saturday. It was also interesting to note that many patients did not want to book appointments at surgeries other than their own which does show that the ‘hub’ model of delivery was not popular and something we need to consider moving forward.

‘It is vital that we use resources given to us effectively for the benefit of local patients and this nationally funded pilot has been successful in showing us that our resources are better spent on other initiatives. These include increasing access to community nursing and supporting people with long term conditions to live as independently as possible for as long as possible.’

Stephen Brown, chief executive of the Heartbeat Alliance, said: ‘This scheme was run as a pilot to establish if there was a demand for more GP appointments, especially out of normal working hours and on weekends. As such it was very useful in establishing that local demand is already being met and that people are broadly happy with the hours their local GP surgery is currently open.’

Yorkshire-based GP and GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse: ‘They haven’t got funding to continue with it but neither do they believe it is the right thing to do, because the appointments at weekends were not taken up by patients. There was some take-up on a Saturday to some extent and hardly any on a Sunday.

‘I think it is evidence that what might be suitable for urban area isn’t suitable at all for a rural area. So a one-size-fits all, seven-day service policy across England, with a London-centric view, doesn’t match the reality on the ground for many areas.’

A DH-commissioned report published yesterday showed that the seven-day pilot in Manchester, held up by the Prime Minister as a blueprint for extended GP access, has reduced A&E attendances by 3%, but had little effect on patient satisfaction.

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Readers' comments (38)

  • Ivan this CCG needs you!

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  • Basically, patients want to be seen in their own surgery, at a time of their choice, by a GP they want. 24/7. GPs lack compassion for failing to give up having a life and enrol in a monastic lifelong devotion to duty to see that 6 month old verrucas at 3am on a Sunday morning because it's destroyed my nights clubbing and I want it sorted out NOW

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  • Vinci Ho

    You see , no disrespect , for you guys to 'succeed' with this pilot, you need
    (1) Northen Powerhouse (whatever it means)
    (2) A protagonist willing to be the 'guardian angel'
    (3) of course , this angel will have to love to be exposed in the media and hit headlines
    I think next thing Simon can offer you is the Success Regime(Yes, again , whatever it means)

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  • I worked in a 24/7 clinic in Darwin Oz and a patient complained because I was the wrong GP at 4 am in the morning!! The one they wanted was known to be liberal with his prescribing of controlled substances and believed every sob story!
    There is no solution because no-one has asked the right question. Patients want their family GP who they know and trust not just anyone. The politicians have not worked out how to fund that model. GP's are cost effective because they are more comfortable with risk. These pilots are nothing new and yet we persist trying it again but calling it by another name and then wondering why we get the same answers!!

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  • They get it wrong because they have hospital consultants and other non-GPs advising them who know nothing about it.
    No matter how many times people are given different versions of the pile em high service that constitutes Darzi centres or hubs, the patients always say the same. Continuity and a GP they trust is more important.
    Why does no-one EVER listen to grassroots GPs?

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  • The biggest blunder that GP ever did was to consent to working under a block contract.Hooray for socialism!

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  • Surely increased resources for OOH service would fit the requirement for access. No system can have a personal doctor on call 24/7 - unless a billionaire employs a personal physician . It's possible but even Roman Abramovitch would balk at the cost .

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  • Drachula

    Absolutely. More money for a decent OOH, run on the principles of "you don't need this sorting now so see your doctor in the morning" as we used to prior to 2004 contract. Not this ridiculous "do everything" approach we appear to have now. Then OOH could be there for the truly needy and visits to the old and frail would be reinstated.
    OOH is hugely underfunded because the politicians don't understand what we do - look at Hunt taking his family to A&E!

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  • Agree entirely 2:51pm. Would also add, why do we spend time 'educating' patients to expect more choice and access and now want them to manage their own conditions to stop them accessing the very services they are encouraged to access?
    Its about time funding for primary care was about increasing capacity in core hours Monday to Friday and wholesale patient education as to when to access a GP etc.

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  • Even the Americans don't offer 24/7 GP services with 'your own doctor'!

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