Practices face DoH pressure to extend hours and services

Pressure on practices to offer extended opening hours is building after a report from MPs called for the reinstatement of Saturday morning surgeries.

The public accounts committee conducted an investigation into the new out-of-hours services, set up after practices were allowed to opt out under the new GMS contract.

The final report condemned preparations for the changes to out-of-hours care as ‘shambolic' and claimed the only people to do well out of the situation were GPs.

The report stated: 'It did not occur to the department that ending Saturday morning surgeries would reduce the service at a key time of the week for patients. The department should encourage PCTs to use the contractual arrangements for primary care at their disposal to re-instate Saturday morning surgeries where there is the demand for them.'

The report also demanded that the DoH decide if out-of-hours services are for urgent care or unscheduled care. The current lack of clarity has resulted in PCTs being unsure of the type of services to commission and the volume of demand.

The committee's findings follow an Ipsis Mori poll recently presented to cabinet, which showed strong support (82 per cent) among the public for GP surgeries to open in the evenings.

Health minister Andy Burnham has also written to Philip Hollobone, the Conservative MP for Kettering, telling him that the government is now expecting GPs to ‘invest more back into their businesses to bring further improvements'. He said these include longer opening hours and an extended range of services.

'From now on, practices will be able to maintain profit levels only where they help deliver government priorities. If productivity improvements are not delivered by practices they will face a real drop in income,' Mr Burnham wrote.


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