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Greater Manchester-wide expansion of seven-day GP access planned for year end

Manchester’s seven-day working pilots are due to be significantly expanded by the end of 2015, it has emerged.

The Greater Manchester health economy, which has been handed a devolved budget for health and social care by the Treasury, is planning to fund a huge expansion of the scheme which has been led by Manchester GP Dr Ivan Benett, clinical adviser on the NHS Central Manchester CCG board.

Like in the central Manchester pilot, plans are for practices to form local hubs to jointly provide access over seven days, offering a walk-in service on weekends, Manchester Evening News reported.

However Manchester LMC honourary secretary Dr Tracey Vell, who was only recently invited to join the devolution programme board, told Pulse that this would not be achieved by extending the core hours contracted from GP practices in Greater Manchester.

Dr Vell said the LMC had successfully made the point that GPs could not expand their core contractual hours, an idea floated several times by the programme board.

She said: ‘What we’re going to provide is a separately commissioned and local access to a GP in a non-urgent way, outside of core hours. But that offer is not necessarily going to be either provided by GPs in practice, nor paid for through the core contract or anything.’

Dr Vell added: ‘It’s just for clarity, there’s been lots of confusion coming out from Manchester, I’ve been very vocal about it all along. I will not support it, the LMC and the [GP] workforce cannot support any extension. It’s not safe for patient care.’

Manchester LMC leaders, were excluded from initial discussions as plans were agreed with the Treasury, but was Dr Vell was finally accepted to join the programme board last week.

Dr Vell further revealed that plans are under discussion to roll out integration of primary, secondary and social care within local hubs covering the population of around 10 GP practices, which would see hospital specialists and social care workers spending time in the community alleviating pressure on GP practices.

Under the LMC-supported plans, these hubs could see ambulatory GPSIs provide weekly clinics for diabetes, COPD or heart failure and also allow hospital specialists to conduct outpatient appointments closer to people’s homes.

Dr Vell said: ‘Instead of running diabetic clinics in your surgery, you will run it at a local specialist centre which is local for those 10 practices. So the patients will go there and also have access to the consultant and his team as well as voluntary agencies that can help them with the social part, such as benefits.’