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Government cranks up pressure on GPs to offer extended hours

By Gareth Iacobucci

The Government has launched the next stage of its drive to widen access to primary care by telling PCTs to use patient survey results to increase Saturday opening.

New guidance to PCTs urges them to maximise the number of practices offering extended hours, with trusts required to offer all practices the opportunity to sign up to the DES before 30 April 2010.

PCTs are told to expand the number of extended hours appointments at practices already providing the service, to give patients a wider choice of appointments, and increase the pressure on those practices not offering extended hours.

Trusts are also urged to increase the number of Saturday morning appointments available by using GP patient survey results to determine demand.

The guidance crystallises plans to draft in other providers to provide extended hours where a practice does not wish to partake, in a bid to ratchet up the pressure on GPs.

This could see out-of-hours providers, private companies and GP-led health centres taking on extended hours shifts.

The guidance says: ‘PCTs should encourage as many GP practices as possible to enter into an extended hours access scheme under the DES Directions (or equivalent local arrangements).

‘PCTs should take into account patients’ preferences for the days and times when additional hours are delivered, as demonstrated through the GP Patient Survey.’

Government cranks up pressure on GPs to offer extended hours