Seven-day GP access pilots established with one-off investment from the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund could see an extra injection of funding to maintain them, the health secretary has said.
In a debate on health in Parliament today, Mr Hunt said the Department of Health was investigating way to maintain funding and prevent ‘turning the clock back’ on successful extended hours pilots.
Pilot areas that received start-up funding in the first and second wave of the fund were supposed to become self-sustaining by cutting the number of A&E attendances at weekends and evenings that could otherwise be seen by a GP but Pulse has reported that almost half of the pilots have already reduced opening hours, amid lacking patient demand and uncertainty over future funding.
Mr Hunt was responding to the Conservative MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire, Jesse Norman, who asked for assurances that his local seven-day working pilots will be ‘funded to continue’ because it’s doing an ‘extraordinarily good job’ for constituents.
Mr Hunt said: ‘We are very pleased with the progress made in Herefordshire and many other areas, and we’re looking at how to maintain funding for those areas.
‘Already 16 million people are benefitting from enhanced access to GPs in the evenings and weekends, and we wouldn’t want to see the clock turned back on that.’