More evidence is needed to extend GP opening hours, as core hours in English GP practices are already longer than most of their counterparts across Europe, finds a new study.
The study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine benchmarked the current general practice hours with other European systems and found that ‘standard opening hours in England already exceed those of most other European countries’.
It also said that, in comparison, patients in the UK were ‘satisfied with out-of-hours access to general practice’.
The study comes despite a £1.5bn drive into delivering 8 ’til 8 GP opening seven days a week by 2021, despite equivocal evidence on patient demand for the service and whether it takes the pressure off A&E departments.
The researchers looked at the obligatory minimum hours that GP practices must be open across 21 countries, ranking England fourth behind Spain, Portugal and Malta.
They found that 80% of English respondents were able to make an appointment with their GP that they found convenient when they last attempted and 80% of patients were satisfied with the opening hours of their general practice.
Standard hours for general practices in England were stated as 8am to 6:30 pm, from Monday to Friday, equating to 52.5 hours per week.
But in Hungary they were foud to be two to four hours a day, in Cyprus 7:30 am until 2:30 pm (with opening to 6 pm one night per week) and in Italy hours varied based on number of patients, but was between five to 15 hours per week.
Lead author of the study Dr Benedict Hayhoe, a GP in central London and clinical lecturer at Imperial College London, said: ‘With so many competing priorities for NHS resources, and existing primary care services significantly under resourced, we feel that stronger evidence of real need and patient demand would be necessary to justify further extension of GP opening hours.’