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Number of GP practices offering extended hours appointments increasing

by Carolyn Wickware
21 May 2018

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Some 40% of patients could make routine GP appointments in evenings and weekends in March, the latest NHS England data have shown.
An NHS England survey of 6,892 GP practices found that 805 practices, with a combined 5.4m patients, did not offer any extended hours provision when the latest data was collected in March.
This was down from 826 practices at the latest count, in September 2017. 
The survey asked practices about their extended access provision, whether it is through a DES or through the GP Access Fund, which sees CCGs given £3 per patient to set up extended access hubs.
The data, published this month, comes as NHS England planning guidance requires CCGs to provide ‘extended access to GP services, including at evenings and weekends, for 100% of their population by 1 October 2018’.
The target for 2017/18 was 40% and data has been collected twice a year since October 2016.
The latest statistics also showed:

  • 2,821 practices offer patients ‘access to pre-bookable appointments on Saturdays, and on Sundays, and on each weekday for at least 1.5 hours: in the early-morning before 8am, in the evening after 6.30pm or both in the morning and evening’, covering 40% of registered patients.
  • 3,266 practices offer ‘partial provision’ to patients with extended access available on at least one day of the week.

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP Committee chair, said: ‘While schemes like this are rolled out and are successful in providing the services they are commissioned to do, we still believe the money invested in such programmes would be better spent improving core GP services.
‘We know that patients are frustrated with being unable to get timely appointments during regular working hours, owing to increased demand and unmanageable GP workloads, and therefore it is these services that should be priority for proper funding.’
A number of CCGs would likely have introduced additional extended access services at the start of the new financial year on 1 April. 
This story was first published on our sister publication Pulse.