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GP networks should ‘consider’ paid advertising for evening and weekend appointments

by Jess Hacker
5 October 2022

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ICBs or GP networks should consider paid advertising to promote new enhanced access on weekend and evenings ‘if budget is available’, NHS England has said.

Since Saturday (1 October), PCNs need to provide enhanced service access from 6:30pm to 8pm on weekdays and 9am to 5pm on Saturdays, as mandated in the Network DES.

New communications guidance, published last week by Public Health England, has suggested commissioners consider booking up space to advertise the services, noting that ‘regional or local press’ may question how this is improving access for patients.

It said: ‘If budget is available then commissioners or providers may wish to consider purchasing media space to run messages about enhanced access.’

The document suggested that commissioners secure a GP case study to ‘help promote the positive impact’ of the service, or that they book an advertisement in a local newspaper setting out the new hours and how patients can access them.

Also last week, NHS England charged ICBs with identifying where to allocate potential winter support funding to PCNs in their area, if such funding were to materialise.

The guidance said commissioners should evaluate to ‘demonstrate the value for money that their communications activity has achieved’ and determine the most effective ways to reach their local patients.

The document was published alongside a suite of digital assets to promote the enhanced hours on social media and in practices.

Under the DES requirements, networks will have to provide 60 minutes’ worth of appointments per 1,000 population within the network, and these will have to be delivered within the hours stipulated.

The appointments will be available ‘for any general practice services and services pursuant to the Network Contract DES that are provided to patients, the DES says.

It also says that they should be bookable a minimum of two weeks in advance, and that same-day appointments should be made available.

In August, clinical directors warned that PCN practices without a solution to incompatible IT systems would find cross-booking enhanced access appointments more challenging.

A version of this story was first published on our sister title Pulse.