Longer GP opening hours ‘a good idea’

The new health centre on Newton Drive
The new health centre on Newton Drive
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Patients in Blackpool who struggle to get an appointment with their doctor have welcomed plans to extend GP surgeries’ opening hours.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans yesterday to encourage practices to open seven days a week and for longer hours.

The move has been well-received in the resort, where a number of people have 
reported having to wait several weeks to see a doctor.

Leonard Watkins, of North Shore, said: “I asked for an appointment yesterday and I have got to wait until October 17 – and that’s if I can get one then.”

He said he would like to see surgeries offering a wider range of appointment times to help ease the problem.

Pamela Birtwistle, of North Shore, added she regularly struggles to get an appointment.

She said: “I work from 8.45am until 5.30pm and trying to get into the late surgery can be a nightmare.

“I sometimes struggle to get an appointment – sometimes I wait three weeks.

“They have started opening clinics at the hospital at weekends and it cuts waiting lists down.”

John Munro, of Grange Park, said he has never had a problem being seen at the practice on Newton Drive.

But he still welcomed the Government’s plans to encourage GP surgeries to open from 8am to 8pm seven days a week.

He added: “There is an ageing population and the longer a surgery is open, the better it is. At the end of the day it’s a health profession and it’s no use shutting down at the weekend.”

The Prime Minister yesterday announced a £50m pilot scheme that will see pioneering GP groups offer longer opening hours and make use of new technology, such as online video messaging application Skype, to benefit patients.

Up to half a million patients are expected to be covered by the pilot project in areas across England. The Government says the move will improve access and cut the pressure on stretched A&E departments.

Almost one in five patients in a recent NHS survey said inconvenient appointments were a concern, with more than 70 per cent backing weekend and after office hours opening. The first pilot projects are due to be operating by April 2014 with the hope they will be copied widely across the country.

Mr Cameron said: “Millions of people find it hard to get an appointment to see their GP at a time that fits in with their work and family life. We want to support GPs to modernise their services.”

The plans were announced at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. However, Labour has called the move a “u-turn” saying its own targets to cut patient waiting times were scrapped by the Government.

Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group did not respond to requests for a comment.