DoH increases pressure on practices to extend hours

Patients from practices not offering extended hours will be able to book evening and weekend appointments at neighbouring practices from April.

Practices are under pressure to improve GP access by increasing extended hours
Practices are under pressure to improve GP access by increasing extended hours

Alternatively they will be allowed to book routine appointments with their local out-of-hours service.

The two new schemes spearhead health ministers' drive to increase the population able to access extended hours.

At the last count in July 2009, 77% of practices offered extended hours.

Gary Belfield, acting director of commissioning at the DoH, has told PCTs and SHAs they are expected to spend their full 2010/11 allocation of £161m on improving GP access.

‘We would expect PCTs in the first instance to seek to maximise the number of practices agreeing to provide the extended opening hours DES (or equivalent arrangements) in the run-up to 1 April 2010.'

Practices must sign up for the extended hours designated enhanced service (DES) early in the financial year so PCTs can plan how to spend their spare cash.

Practices already doing extended hours may be asked to open on more evening or weekend slots.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the GPC, said ‘At a time when PCTs around the country are under severe financial pressure, I suspect that few will have the necessary resources to make either of these suggestions work.'

Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC chairman, said: ‘If the government wants to spend money it doesn't have on something that a very small minority of patients say they want, but do not necessarily need, that is for it to decide.'

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