Practices now bid to extend hours to offer diagnostics

GP DoH adviser spearheads scheme to open at nights and weekends. By Joe Lepper.

A group of 16 practices in London is embracing Lord Darzi's extended services agenda and plans to offer patients secondary care services into the night and at weekends.

The Croydon Federation of practices, which serves around 140,000 patients, already offers ultrasound scans through the London NHS Diagnostic Service during normal GP opening hours.

But the federation is in discussions with the diagnostic service to offer this out of normal hours. It is also looking to link up with local hospitals to offer other services such as urgent care during evenings and weekends.

The concept of extended opening hours is a central plank of health minister Lord Darzi's proposals, which GPs should see 'as an opportunity not a threat', according to federation chairman and DoH adviser Dr Agnelo Fernandes.

He said: 'Practices and patients can really benefit from offering extended opening and a greater range of services closer to patients' homes.

'Can GPs use their practice space out of normal opening hours better? Can partners such as those in hospitals use that space? These are the type of questions GPs need to be asking themselves,' he said.

He added that, as well as rent from secondary providers, the main benefit will be reduced workload.

'If a patient has better access to diagnostics, problems will be spotted quicker and they will have less need to see their GP,' said Dr Fernandes.

He denied that the move would create 24/7 surgeries as there is not the demand all around the clock, 'but it would significantly extend opening hours'.

Dr Agnelo Fernandes will be speaking at the Primary Care Live Conference on 30 September.

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