Longer opening hours for GP surgeries in bid to help A&E

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GP surgeries in Wigan borough will be forced to open from 8am to 8pm under new plans announced by Prime Minister David Cameron.

A scheme to extend opening hours is currently under way in nine areas of the country and Mr Cameron says he wants to offer more patients the chance to visit a GP in the evening or at weekends.

The Prime Minister said the £50m project would mean doctors “fit in with work and family life”.

NHS England, which oversee sthe Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) whicho are responsible for all GP surgeries in the borough, says it has been working toward such a move for some time.

Rosamond Roughton, Director of Commissioning Development for NHS England, said: “Last year, NHS England launched work to explore with health professionals how best to extend seven day working across a greater range of NHS services. Although the initial focus has been on hospital services, a number of local clinical leaders have already started to explore how to extend seven day working to other services including GP services.

“We know that access to primary care is one of the areas where the public want to see improvements. We set this out in our call to action for general practice in August, and I have already heard of some great ideas from practices around the country about how to better meet the needs of their local communities. This announcement will be a great stimulus for turning these ideas into action.”

Manchester is already piloting an extended-hours scheme for GPs, with family doctors grouping together to offer extra care, in what is being billed as an attempt to prevent “unnecessary” visits to hospital A&E wards.

Mr Cameron is also promising more “flexible access”, including email, Skype and telephone consultations for patients who prefer this to face-to-face contact.

The Royal College of GPs said doctors were keen to do more, but were already struggling with their workload.

“We now need the government to go much further and give general practice its fair share of the NHS budget so that GPs can deliver more care and better access to services for their patients in the community,” it said.

Mr Cameron said: “Many hard working people find it difficult to take time off to get that GP appointment, so having these pilot schemes ... is, I think, a very positive step forward.

“What we need to do is enable the right people with the right ailments, as it were, to either go to a GP or to accident and emergency.”

Wigan Borough CCG, which manages all GP surgeries in Wigan and Leigh, was unavailable for comment on the plans.