Health Policy

17.12.18

NHS England announces roll-out of evening and weekend GP appointments

Evening and weekend GP appointments have been rolled out across the NHS, with NHS England announcing that all patients are now able to see a doctor at a time convenient for them.

An estimated nine million extra appointments each year will now be available to patients outside working hours with people able to see a doctor, nurse, or other members of practice teams during evenings and weekends.

NHS England says the service arrives three months ahead of schedule and in time to help ease pressures on the NHS during the busy winter period.

At least £3.5bn more in real-terms funding will be invested in primary medical and community services to improve access to weekday ‘in-hours’ services, as NHS England says strengthening general practice and primary care is a key part of the NHS long-term plan.

Recent figures show that 5,321 more primary health professionals are working in primary care than three years ago, but a recent investigation found that one in four GP appointments went unused at weekends in pilot areas where extended hours were available.

Dominic Hardy, NHS England’s director of primary care delivery, declared that strengthening GP practice was an important part of the NHS long-term plan, and praised the hard work of local health services to ensure patients had access to excellent general practice across the country.

He said: “Because of this hard work, we have been able to make these extra appointments available months ahead of schedule and before winter really starts.

“As well as offering convenience and choice to patients, it will help to reduce some of the pressure on general practice and A&Es and ease some of the wider system pressures we saw last winter.”

The extended appointments will be available either through designated local NHS services or a patient’s own GP practice, and a communications campaign during the run up to Christmas will try to make patients aware of the weekend and evening appointments.

Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, commented: “GPs across the country are going above and beyond to ensure we can deliver good, safe care for our patients under intense resource and workforce pressures.

“All practices in England now offer some form of extended access to routine GP services, and they will have tailored these to the needs of their local population.

She said that GPs were preparing for a very busy winter, but that patients should be able to access GP services at all times if they become ill.

Image credit -  Anthony Devlin/PA Wire/PA Images

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