Exclusive: PCTs undecided on extending practice hours

Three out of five PCTs had yet to decide how to increase extended hours opening just weeks from a DoH deadline, a GP newspaper investigation shows.

Data from 91 PCTs obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows just 23 had planned how to use leftover funding from the extended hours directed enhanced service (DES).

Among PCTs that had made decisions, details of how they would boost extended hours were often unclear. The findings also revealed that 11% of PCTs say they have no remaining DES money to pay for increasing extended hours.

The DoH informed PCTs in January that they are expected to spend their full share of the 2010/11 allocation of £161m on improving GP access.

It called on PCTs to produce plans by today (Friday 26 March) outlining how they would use any remaining DES funding to offer extended hours appointments to patients whose practices were not open outside core hours.

But responses from PCTs received in the six weeks before the deadline show that 62% were yet to make decisions. However, most of these PCTs expected to submit their plans within the deadline.

Meanwhile, 4% of PCTs planned to allow other practices to offer extended hours appointments to patients whose own practices did not offer the service. But details of how these practices would be paid and how medical records would be shared was unclear.

A further 4% said they were looking to expand opening times at practices already offering extended hours, while 2% planned to commission  out-of-hours providers to offer bookable appointment slots for routine care. Around 9% of PCTs planned a combination of these schemes.

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