Although the money will fund 100 new surgeries in under-doctored areas as well as 150 walk-in centres, health minister Ben Bradshaw has indicated that where PCTs think this is not necessary the money could be spent on other areas to improve access, such as extended opening hours.
Speaking at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for primary care and public health in London last week, Mr Bradshaw said: ‘I don’t think we should be completely prescriptive about one health centre per PCT. If PCTs can make a good case then we will discuss what, if anything, they might need instead.’
GPC negotiator Dr Richard Vautrey, who raised the issue at the meeting, said afterwards: ‘This does give me some optimism that there will be some flexibility and that there are other ways to improve access other than building a walk-in centre or new surgery. It certainly makes sense to use this to fund extended opening hours.
‘I still treat the comments with caution and want to see much more detail and assurances from the government. Apart from these comments the tone until now has still been very prescriptive.’
Last week a GP survey found that 62.7 per cent of GPs would open longer if funded.
Some PCTs are already offering extended hours local enhanced services to practices.
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