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Public in support of seven-day GP access, poll claims



The majority of the public is in favour of the Government prioritising seven-day GP services, a new poll has claimed, despite reports that commissioners are abandoning schemes due to poor take-up.

The research, carried out by YouGov for upcoming health and social care conference Health+Care and Commissioning, revealed that the highest priorities for the general public are care for the elderly and access to GPs at weekends, indicating support for greater access to seven-day services.

But it comes as Pulse reported one of the first areas funded under the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund scheme will pull the plug on its seven-day access pilot at the end of this month, after only four months of full operation, because only one in 10 appointments was filled.

The online survey asked 2,052 adults to score which areas the NHS should prioritise over the next five years from a range of options.

Some 57% of respondents voted for care for the elderly while access to GPs at weekends was supported by 54%.

Care closer to home was scored by 51%; prevention strategies, such as tackling issues like smoking and obesity, got support from 46% of respondents.

Greater use of technology, like Skype consultations, only garnered support from 27% of participants.

Seven-day access will be one of the topics discussed at the Health+Care and Commissioning conference, which is taking place tomorrow and Thursday in London.

Dr Michael Dixon, chair of NHS Alliance, will tell the conference: ‘Commissioners now need to explore exactly what sort of access patients actually want, and whether this is just for unscheduled conditions – and can be with any local GP thus preventing unnecessary hospital use – or whether patients and public are asking more than this at a time of limited manpower and resources.’

Earlier this month Pulse revealed NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby CCG – one of the first areas funded under the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund scheme – will pull the plug on its seven-day access pilot at the end of this month.

CCG leaders say the pilot was not a good use of resources as only 12% of appointments on Sundays were filled and less than 50% of slots booked on a Saturday.

Pulse revealed CCGs in some areas of the country were also rethinking their extended-access plans due to lack of demand and cost-effectiveness.