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Seven-day GP support is ‘patchy’ says think-tank

Demand for a seven-day health service appears to be ‘patchy’ and GP support for CCGs is waning, a health think tank has told MPs.

The claims were made by Nuffield Trust in a written response to an inquiry into primary care by the Commons Health Committee.

Nuffield cited as evidence a story published by Pulse in June, which found that CCG leaders had stopped their seven-day GP access pilot after just one in 10 appointments were filled despite ‘considerable promotion’ of the scheme.

It said: ’The evidence on demand for seven-day services is patchy. A recent pilot project in North Yorkshire was suspended following limited demand from patients for GP opening at weekends and a recent evaluation of weekend GP services in Manchester suggested demand was weaker than during the week. Redesigning general practice is likely to be about much more than just changing opening hours.’

The think-tank also said that practices are interested in joining the ‘new models of care’ outlined in NHS England’s Five Year Forward View, which will see primary and secondary care coming together in single organistations.

It said: ’GPs are becoming more involved in the new care models proposed under the forward view, and at the same time their enthusiasm with their CCGs is starting to wane.

‘If we want to reduce our reliance on hospital care – an aspiration that is shared amongst policy-makers and practitioners – investing in well-functioning and sustainable primary care services is vital. Yet we are facing a workforce crisis in general practice, with record numbers of GPs retiring or leaving the profession, and training places unfilled. At the same time, spending on general practice has stagnated, and the potential offered by other professionals, such as pharmacists, to help transform care has not yet been realised.’

 A majority of people report a good experience when they visit their GP, but concerns are mounting about patients’ access to their GP, Nuffield said.