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Just 0.4% of people ‘would benefit from Sunday appointments’

Just one in 250 people would benefit from wider introduction of Sunday GP appointments, an academic study has shown, mirroring finds made by a Government-commissioned report on seven-day opening. 

University of East Anglia (UEA) researchers looked at 881,183 responses to the GP patient survey, and found that four in five patients felt that their practice had convenient opening times. 

They found that, of the 20% who felt they were inconvenient, just 2% would only be able to attend on Sunday – equating to 0.4% of the population. The majority said that Saturday opening would be more convenient.

The team’s findings underline those of NHS England’s first official evaluation of the £100m first-wave of Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund pilots, which has concluded Sunday opening is not worthwhile.

The UEA research on weekend GP opening, published today in the British Journal of General Practice, said: ’There were 881,183 respondents in 2014, of whom 712,776 (81%) did not report any problems with opening times: 168,407 (19.1%) reported that their GP surgery was not open at a convenient time.

Of these, 76.1% (14.5% of all respondents) reported that weekend opening would make it easier for them to see someone.

‘A higher proportion of those patients who reported that their surgery was not open at a convenient time preferred Saturday opening (73.9%) compared with Sunday (35.8%). Only 2.2% of respondents who did not feel that their practice was open at a convenient time felt that Sunday, but not Saturday, opening would make it easier for them.’

Lead researcher Dr John Ford, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: ’Some weekend opening pilots have already begun to show that there is a lack of demand on Sundays, and our findings suggest that Sunday opening, in addition to Saturday, would be unlikely to improve access.’

This came as Pulse had already revealed that half of the pilots reduced opening hours due to lack of demand, especially on Sundays.

Weekend Opening in Primary Care: Analysis of the General Practice Patient Survey’ is published in the British Journal of General Practice on 6 November 2015.