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Practices invited to bid for £100m second wave of extended access funding

GPs are being invited to submit bids to receive a share of an extra £100 million invested by the prime minister to provide extended hours and improving GP access.

The funding follows the initial £50m tranche awarded earlier this year, and the new funding is open to any practice or group of practices serving a patient population of more than 30,000, though priority will be given to those who will open from 8am till 8pm, or at weekends.

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

NHS England deputy medical director Dr Mike Bewick said: ‘Even more patients across the country will now be able to see their family doctor in the most convenient way for them and at a more convenient time.

‘The current 20 pilots have had a positive impact in providing patients with better, wide-ranging access to their GP as well as more choice about when and how they see them.’

But the GPC warned that the funding was inappropriate.

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair, said: The BMA remains concerned that the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund is an unsustainable programme that will provide support only to a limited number of practices for a short period of time.

‘The funding provided as part of this pilot is not, as NHS England have confirmed, going to be guaranteed year on year into the future. An analysis by the BMA of the funding required to sustain extended opening hours in six Wakefield practices taking part in the pilot has shown that if the Challenge Fund was rolled out across the country it would cost the NHS over £1 billion to sustain each year.  

‘Although some cash-strapped practices will be tempted into applying for this funding, it is difficult to see how the provision of longer opening hours is going to be sustainable once the pilot comes to an end. This runs the risk that GP practices will end up stretching already under pressure services even more thinly by shifting appointments from the day time to cover weekends and evenings.’

Pulse reported in September that five out of the seven pilot areas who responded to Pulse had yet to implement their extended hours plans, leading the GPC to brand the scheme ‘a political gimmick’.

NHS England has said the wave two pilots will also be part of a 12-month national development and evaluation programme.