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No evidence £4.6m seven-day access scheme reduced costs, says CCG

A GP extended access scheme popular with patients has produced ‘no evidence’ that it will lead to reduced spending in the wider health system, a CCG evaluation has concluded.

NHS Leeds West CCG said in an interim report that the £4.6m scheme to offer more weekend and evening appointments, which it self funded after being declined money from the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund, had seen patients attend an extra 125,000 appointments at a GP practice at a cost of approximately £36 per appointment.

The evaluation of its impact found that there was ‘wide support’ and ‘a breadth of positive comments from patients’ on the scheme, but that general practice staff experienced that it was leading to ‘existing resources being spread too thinly’.

Staff did see ‘some evidence’ that peak times such as Monday mornings were less busy, with other positive impacts including a ‘very slight decline in A&E attendances, emergency admissions and minor injury units’ and a ’marked decrease in GP out-of-hours attendances.

But the report added that an ’increase in cost of emergency admissions means that there is currently no evidence that there will be any reduced spend in [the] wider health system as a result of the scheme.’

The scheme has been running for 18 months and is due to come to an end at the end of this month, but the final evaluation is not due before summer.

The local report falls in line with the official national analysis of the Challenge Fund pilots, which also concluded that extending access in weekends and evenings cost more than it could save in the wider health economy.