GPs to treat neighbours' patients in extended hours

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

Dr Peter Holden: funding queries
Dr Peter Holden: funding queries

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

However, GP leaders warned the plans were a waste of money and pointed out that other practices would not have access to the patients' notes.

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

At the last count in July 2009, 77 per cent 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 £161 million 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 directed enhanced services (or equivalent arrangements) in (DES) the run-up to 1 April.'

Practices must sign up for the extended hours DES deal early in the financial year so PCTs can plan how to spend their spare cash. PCTs are expected to produce outlines by April describing how they intend to use the balance of the DES funding in their area. 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.'

GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden added: 'I still don't see how this could work in terms of patient notes and remuneration, as well as where they are going to fund it from.

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