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GP practices opening longer with more appointments

GP practices in Wales are opening longer and offering more appointment times, Government figures have shown.

In 2016, 85% of practices were open for daily core hours of 8am to 6.30pm or within an hour of those times – up from 60% in 2011.

Only 3% of practices closed for half a day, one or more days a week, down from 4% the previous year, the data shows.

The number of practices offering late evening appointments after 5pm has also increased from 79% in 2015 to 84% in 2016.

Almost one in five practices are now offering early appointment slots before 8.30am at least two days a week, the figures show.

Health secretary Vaughan Gething said they had committed to continuing to improve access to GP surgeries and that the figures showed more appointments are being made available for people at more convenient times.

He said: ‘I am pleased to see that the trend of improvement has been continued for 2016.

‘I want to say thank you to our GPs and their teams who are working hard to extend their opening hours in Wales.’

He added that GPs were working with other health professionals including nurses and pharmacists to get patients the right care so they could focus their time and expertise on people with complex care needs.

Dr Charlotte Jones, GPC Wales chair, said she was delighted to see how practices have worked hard to improve their accessibility despite facing ‘significant’ workload pressures on a daily basis.

She said: ‘There is always room for improvement, and making sure that practices can offer flexibility to patients is key, however we must not forget that there is a lot more work needed to be done to ensure patients are aware of the full range of professionals that can meet their needs.

‘The default should not automatically be the GP.

‘By addressing this, we can make sure that there is capacity in the system whereby patients who need the expertise of the practice team can access timely appointment services.’