Patients fail to appreciate extended hours services

Teesside survey on extended hours shows few want the service.

Most patients using extended hours services in Teesside say they have no problem seeing their GP during regular hours.

The DoH has said extended hours are needed to improve access. However, Hartlepool's Bankhouse Surgery found that only 31 per cent of patients using its pilot extended hours scheme reported problems getting to their GP during normal hours.

From January to March, the practice, which has 9,300 patients, is offering two evening surgeries a week, and a three-hour Saturday morning session.

Nearly 70 per cent of the 180 patients surveyed said they have no problem with current access to GPs.

Yet 69 per cent of patients said they would like to see the service continue, and none said it should be scrapped.

Dr Peter Holden, a GPC negotiator, said he was unsurprised by the results.

'Extended hours is a solution to a problem we don't have outside London and the south east,' he said.

'Everybody likes convenience. But convenience has to be paid for.

'At present it's happening on the back of doctors and nurses who aren't getting time with their families,' he added.

Bankhouse is one of eight practices in the Hartlepool and North Tees PCT areas taking part in the extended hours pilot scheme.

Rita White, practice manager at Stockton's Tenant Street Medical Practice, said that early morning and late evening appointments have proved popular.

However, many patients could attend during the surgery's normal hours.

'It's impractical just to keep the slots for people with commitments during the normal working day,' she said.

jonn.elledge@haymarket.com

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