A new pilot scheme for extended GP surgery opening hours will be rolled out across England today with the aim of improving patients’ access to their GP surgeries. The scheme will allow patients to see their family GP outside working hours, including late night and weekend appointments, to make it easier for people to get appointments for themselves and family members that fit in around their busy working week and family commitments.
Alongside the extended hours, it has been announced that some practices are also being innovative in their approach to improve access to family doctors by offering GP consultations by Skype and by email. This is to accommodate “what patients want” and to allow GPs to deliver services more quickly and efficiently, thus freeing up their time for the sickest patients with the greatest need for continuous care and support.
However, while it was originally anticipated that the Government’s £50 million pound investment in the scheme would benefit 500,000 patients in England, it has only been possible to roll out the initiative to 1,147 out of 8,230 (14%) GP practices in England. However, it is hoped that more patients will benefit from this initiative in time.
Naomi Holland, an associate in the Penningtons Manches' clinical negligence team, welcomes these new changes: “The lack of access to family doctors for patients has been an issue for some time and can be severely detrimental to those patients with time-sensitive illnesses, where delay in seeking medical care can have a significant adverse effect on their outcome. The lack of easy access to GPs ‘out of hours’ also increases the burden on A&E departments – with all the implications for quality of care. The implementation of extended hours and more access routes to deliver health services will hopefully enable every patient to receive the healthcare they deserve. However, it is important that sufficient funding is provided for this and steps still need to be taken to address the frequent non-attenders who block appointment books.”