Weekend GP access must extend to 40% of patients this year, government confirms

Close to half of the population should be able to access enhanced GP services in the evenings or over the weekend by the end of this year, the government has told NHS England in mandate plans that confirm the push towards seven-day GP opening.

At least 40% of the population must have access to enhanced GP services at evenings and weekends by the end of this financial year, the government’s mandate to NHS England for 2017/18 has stated.

It also confirms that coverage should rise so that 100% of the population have access to routine weekend and evening GP appointments by 2020.

But GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said this did not mean all practices in affected areas would have to open 8am till 8pm over the weekend.

‘The crucial thing is there is no obligation for 8am till 8pm opening on weekends – the mandate is to provide weekend access, but the GP Forward View is explicit that it is up to the commissioner to decide on local need.

‘Evening and weekend access can be for urgent care. It would make sense for this to be merged with out-of-hours urgent care so we’re not wasting money on duplication.

‘It’s important that local areas use the flexibilities around opening that we have managed to negotiate.’

NHS England mandate

The DH mandate sets out seven high-level objectives and goals for NHS England to achieve by 2020 and the shorter-term aims it expects complete by the end of 2017/18

Within the next year, it says that every practice should ensure at least 10% of patients access services online or through apps.

This paves the way for its longer term goal of ensuring nearly all patients – 95% – are offered e-consultations and other digital services from their practice by 2020.

The mandate says work must be completed to ‘assess how best to meet the commitment’ that all over 75s can access a same-day appointment with a GP if they require one.

Delivered jointly with Health Education England (HEE), NHS England must also ensure that there are 5,000 extra doctors working in general practice by this date.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: ‘The NHS has a unique place at the heart of our society and is – by some distance – the institution that makes us most proud to be British.

‘It is because of this that the 2017/18 mandate to NHS England goes further than ever before to ensure that we not only deliver the best care and support to today’s NHS patients, but also deliver the reform and renewal needed to sustain the NHS for the future.

‘By working closely with leaders across the health and care system, this mandate is about making real progress to deliver the care that our patients need, not only safeguarding the NHS’s immediate future but also ensuring this for generations to come. I expect to see clear progress against the measures in this mandate in the months ahead.’

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