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Herefordshire at top of list of best access to 'out of hours' GPs

(Taken from The Hereford Times 15/5/2018)

EVERY patient in the area covered by Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group is able to book a doctor's appointment at weekends or outside normal hours on weekdays, according to latest figures from the NHS.

It is one of only two CCG areas in England where all patients have full extended hours access to a GP.

The other is Rushcliffe, Nottinghamshire.

Under extended hours, doctors offer appointments on Saturday, Sunday and on weekdays in the early morning and after 6.30pm.

All 24 practices in Herefordshire CCG, covering 187,193 registered patients, offer this service.

The target was first achieved in March 2017. Patient access dropped last September but full access for all patients was achieved again this March.

The Government says that everyone should have "more convenient access to GP services, including appointments at evening and weekends."

It has set a target date of October 1 for all patients to have access to extended hours.

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said: "While schemes like this are rolled out and are successful in providing the services they are commissioned to do, we still believe the money invested in such programmes would be better spent improving core GP services.

"We know that patients are frustrated with being unable to get timely appointments during regular working hours, owing to increased demand and unmanageable GP workloads, and therefore it is these services that should be a priority for proper funding."

There are 7,153 GP practices in England. Currently, just over 6,000 of them offer some access to appointments on Saturdays, Sundays and during extended weekday hours.

In most instances, practices get together to form hubs or federations that provide the service, so patients may not see their usual doctor.

The poorest record is in South Sefton CCG on Merseyside, where no patients have access to extended hours every day but 37% of patients have some extended hours service.