Wigan GPs are best for evenings and weekends

Dr Tim Dalton, chairman of Wigan borough CCG
Dr Tim Dalton, chairman of Wigan borough CCG
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Wigan is among the best areas in the country for access to GP appointments at evenings and weekends, an investigation has revealed.

The Government wants all clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to offer extended access by October 1.

They have previously warned that GP surgeries which fail to comply could lose extra funding.

But figures revealed by the BBC Shared Data Unit and based on NHS statistics drawn from a county-wide survey, show only 40 per cent of patients in England - 22.6m people - have full access to extended hours during weekdays and weekends.

From the GP practices surveyed, 41 per cent offered full access to extended hours.

Only two CCGs in England were found to provide 100 per cent access across all of their practices - NHS Herefordshire and NHS Rushcliffe.

NHS Wigan Borough CCG performed well, ranking eighth in the country for providing full access to 94.5 per cent of patients, which is 309,511 people.

The investigation found 58 of its 62 practices provided full access, with three offering partial access and one offering none. However, Wigan’s CCG said that NHS data was incorrect as there may been “some confusion” when local practices completed the health service’s original surve0y.

They said that in fact all patients in the Wigan borough have access to GPs outside of normal working hours because the entire population has access to any one of seven hubs located across the borough.

“All patients who are registered with a GP practice within the Wigan borough have access to the extended access service, regardless of the practice,” a CCG spokesman said.

“We think there has been some confusion with a small number of practices when they answered the question as all our practices are signed up to the hubs and all patients have access to the service.”

Aside from the data “confusion” Dr Tim Dalton, a GP and chairman of NHS Wigan Borough CCG, welcomed the report’s findings.

He said: “I am really pleased that we perform so much better than the national average.

“However, what is more important is that all patients across the borough can get a GP appointment on an evening or weekend when they need one, regardless of where they live or which GP practice they are registered with.

“The feedback from the thousands of patients who have used the service over the last few years is that they really appreciate it and that is far more important to me than national statistics.

This service is a testament to the commitment of local GPs who manage and run the service between them.”

The CCG said all GPs in Wigan work together to offer appointments every evening and weekend to all patients from seven “hubs” located around the borough.

The service is available from 6.30pm to 8pm on weekdays and from 10am to 4pm on weekends

Some practices also offer this extended service specifically to their patients.

Patients seem to be keen to take up the appointments, with 30,995 of the 34,929 slots available in 2017-18 - 88.7 per cent - being booked.

A total of 15,498 weekday appointments were booked from 16,025 offered (96.7 per cent) and 15,497 weekend appointments from 18,904 offered (81.9 per cent).

Extended access means appointments must be available in the early mornings (8am Monday to Friday), in the evenings (after 6.30pm Monday to Friday) and at weekends, according to locally determined need.

There is likely to be a mixture of routine and same day/urgent appointments available. But patients around the country do not have the same access as those in Wigan, according to the investigation’s findings.

At 805 practices, 10 per cent of patients (5.4m people) have no access to extended hours during weekdays and no weekend appointments.

NHS South Sefton CCG has the highest percentage - 63 per cent - of registered patients with no access to extended provision.

Across the North, 44 per cent of patients (7m people) have full access, but nine per cent (1.4m) cannot access any appointments outside core hours.