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GP opening hours to be included in NHS review of urgent and emergency care

GP practice opening hours are to come under scrutiny as part of a national review of urgent and emergency care being launched by the NHS Commissioning Board.

The review - which forms part of plans to introduce more seven-day working across the NHS in England - will be led by the Board’s medical director Sir Bruce Keogh.

Sir Bruce recently told the Sunday Times that GPs should be prepared to work at weekends for the benefit of patients in an effort to emulate the customer service offered by Tesco.

He said that primary and secondary care clinicians should move towards seven-day working as the current system is designed for health workers and not patients.

In a statement the NHS Commissioning Board said the urgent and emergency services review team will work with CCGs to develop a national framework offer to help them ensure high-quality, consistent standards of care across the country.

It said the review will take account of the way that emergency care in England works with other areas of the NHS, such as GP surgeries, community care and the 24-hour NHS 111 advice line.

A Board spokesman confirmed to Pulse that the review team would examine the whole NHS - including GP surgeries and out-of-hours care.

The review team will publish emerging principles for consultation in the Spring.

In its planning guidance, published late last year, the NHSCB said it would order the review as part of plans for more seven-day services.

As well as seven-day working, the review aims to help CCGs find “the right balance between providing excellent clinical care in serious complex emergencies and maintaining or improving local access to services for less serious problems”.

It will set out the different levels and definitions of emergency care ranging from top-level trauma centres at major hospitals to local accident and emergency departments and facilities providing access to expert nurses and GPs for the treatment of more routine but urgent health problems.

As well as looking at how emergency care is provided, the review will also assess transfer processes between these levels of emergency care.

Launching the review Sir Bruce said: ‘The NHS is there for all of us and should offer appropriate, effective and rapid care whenever and wherever it is needed.

‘Treatments for many common conditions such as heart attacks and strokes have evolved considerably over the last decade and are now best treated in specialist centres. Yet we know people want their A&E nearby.

‘This makes me think we need to review the increasingly complex and fragmented system of urgent and emergency care, so that sick, anxious and often frightened people can get what they need when they need it.’