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PM’s seven-day access drive extended to 1,400 more GP practices

The Prime Minister’s drive to extend GP access has been extended today, with a further 37 bids approved, covering more than 1,400 practices.

The practices will be given a share of an additional £100m to extend access to GP practices at evenings and weekends.

One bid from 87 Sheffield GP practices has been granted funding worth £9m, and will see seven-day GP access in five sites across the city.

Another successful bid from Tower Hamlets will see four GP ‘hubs’ across the borough will provide 8am-8pm access seven days a week and pharmacist training to offer more prescriptions.

Elsewhere, a scheme in Manchester – where seven-day opening was pioneered – has been given funding worth £5.4m, to cover 92 practices.

This is the second tranche of funding from the Prime Minister’s ‘Challenge Fund’, which is aimed to improve access to GPs on evenings and weekends and improve the use of technology, and follows the first tranche that invested £50m.

The bids will be for funding over 12 months, and successful bids have come in from all over the country.

The most recent investment, announced during the Conservative Party conference in September, came after Pulse revealed that many of first group of pilots had yet to begin in September last year, despite funding being due to end in April.

As a result, NHS England said in February it will extend funding for the pilots to allow ‘fuller analysis’, after admitting that there was insufficient data to measure the success of the scheme ten months into the year-long pilots.

The additional funding comes as NHS managers in London have begun talks to create routine GP Saturday opening in London.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the GPC, said: ‘It’s vital that this new money is used in ways that meet the needs of patients, and to support practices to ease the pressures on GPs struggling to cope with escalating patient demand. There was evidence from the first wave of pilots that despite low demand for appointments, NHS resources were being spent on keeping some practices open on Sundays.

‘Going forward, we must allow pilot sites to implement their funding allocation flexibly and make necessary changes to plans or services to ensure appropriate use of the resources provided.’

He added that the BMA ‘remains concerned’ that the funding is for only a year, and practices will not have resources to continue any successful initiatives.