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GPs saw 13 patients on Christmas day under extended access opening hours

Exclusive GPs in Telford working on Christmas Day saw just 13 patients through the extended access service that was commissioned

NHS Telford and Wrekin CCG confirmed the service was used by a total of 13 patients on 25 December and that the money paid to the GPs working the shift was a ‘nationally agreed rate’, with the level of cover also in line with national requirements.

The CCG refused to confirm how much money had been spent on the service, but Pulse understands at least two GPs were on shift and were paid £250 per hour, for 12 hours each.

The CCG also said that just over 50 patients were seen both on Boxing Day and on New Year’s Day.

Local GP practices told Pulse the extended access arrangements had led to ‘blind demands’ for more GP appointments in the region, resulting in ‘money wasted’.

Two primary care networks in Telford and Wrekin provided the extended access service for the Christmas bank holiday period – Teldoc PCN and South East Telford PCN.

But Clive Elliott, business partner at Court Street Medical Practice in Telford, said the region’s out-of-hours provider, Shropdoc, already provided a ‘fantastic’ service to patients wanting appointments outside of core surgery hours

He said giving patients even more access to GP appointments when there is a GP staffing crisis ‘is not recognising the real issue’.

Mr Elliott said: ‘This top-down, one size fits all approach to NHS services means that local needs are ignored and, consequently, money wasted.

‘In Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin we already have a fantastic out-of-hours provider called Shropdoc. So to blindly demand even more GP appointments with fewer GPs to provide them is not recognising the real issue.

‘It is about time some thought was given to the professionals who deliver patient care rather than constantly increasing pressure on doctors. It is no wonder people feel demoralised.’

A spokesperson for NHS Telford and Wrekin CCG said: ‘The CCG is mandated to provide GP appointments every day of the year including bank holidays. Patients are able to book appointments by contacting their own surgery, with the line diverted to the local extended access hub when the surgery is closed.

‘On Christmas Day the GP extended access service was used by 13 patients in Telford and Wrekin. This increased to over 50 on both Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

‘Extended access and other out-of-hours services are helping to reduce pressure on A&E at what is always a busy time of year.’

A Pulse investigation in 2018 revealed around 25% of evening and weekend appointments were unfilled as the extended access policy was being rolled out across England.

The GP partnership review, published in early 2019, concluded that extended access services are pulling GPs away from practices due to the attractive pay and workload.