Doctors' surgeries to open after work and at weekends in Cambridgeshire
Additional evening and weekend appointments will be available at GP surgeries across the county from this month.
The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) says the extension will help “more people get access to the right person, providing the right care, in the right place at the right time”.
Out-of-hours appointments have been available in parts of the country since 2014 and NHS England said all surgeries should provide the facility from October 1 this year.
GP practices will work together to offer patients better access to appointments, which may mean appointments could be with an alternative practice.
Dr Gary Howsam, CCG chair, explained: “We understand that people cannot always go to see their GP during standard working hours.
“From October, there will be more pre-bookable appointments locally. Appointments may not be at your usual practice, but if you talk to a receptionist, they can help you find the right service and at a time that works best for you, where possible.”
One in five patients in Cambridgeshire seeking an appointment with their GP had to wait more than a week, according to the NHS’s annual GP survey released in August. The findings showed that 19 per cent had to wait a week or more to see a GP or nurse on the last occasion they booked an appointment, compared with just 12 per cent five years ago.
At the Maple Surgery in Bar Hill, some 50 per cent of patients had to wait a week or longer to see a GP or nurse. At the other end of the scale, no patients faced a week’s delay at Huntly Grove in Peterborough.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Patients are still waiting too long for a GP appointment, and too many are not getting an appointment when they want one. As well as being frustrating for patients and GPs, this is concerning as it means patients might not be getting the treatment they need in the early stages of their condition – and their conditions will potentially become more serious.”
The expansion is part of NHS England’s work nationally to improve access to GP services, following the publication of the GP Forward View in 2016.
However, new evidence suggests that evening and weekend appointments may not be the solution. On Monday (October 1), a Freedom of Information request revealed that around a quarter of evening and weekend GP appointments at surgeries offering them are going unfilled in England. It showed that 37 per cent of Sunday appointments go unfilled, 24 per cent on Saturdays and 23 per cent on weekday evenings.