Two Nottinghamshire clinical commissioning groups, which also lead a national vanguard, have found there is no direct link between extended GP opening hours and accident and emergency attendances.

Mansfield and Ashfield CCG, and Newark and Sherwood CCG evaluated the effects of extended GP access schemes on A&E attendances for practices in their areas and concluded there was “no immediate correlation”.

The commissioners currently lead the Mid Nottinghamshire primary and acute care system.

The news comes as NHS England pushes for 50 per cent of the country to be covered by extended opening GP hours by March. As part of winter resilience plans this year, the national commissioning body said the availability of GP appointments “makes a significant contribution to the management of local winter and urgent care demands”.

However, analysis by CCGs found no evidence of a “direct correlation” between A&E attendances and GP opening hours.

The analysis, of data from August 2016 to July 2017, compared the A&E attendances of patients whose practice was commissioned to provide extended hours by NHS England, a CCG or both, with practices that provide only core GP hours.

The commissioners’ report, published this month, said: “There is no immediate correlation between GP opening hours and the weighted rates of emergency department attendances.

“For example, three of the four Newark based practices provide extended hours through the NHS England commissioned direct enhanced services and have red rated A&E weighted rates.

“In contrast, many of the Sherwood practices do not provide any additional hours above the core contract but have low ED attendances. This suggests that geography plays a significant part in influencing patients’ decisions as to which healthcare services they access.”

Despite the findings, the CCGs still plan to have 100 per cent of their populations covered by extended GP opening hours – 8am to 8pm – next month.

A spokeswoman for the CCGs added: “A survey carried out by the CCGs in February 2017 found that some of the patients who presented at the local emergency department did so because they were unable to get a GP appointment, suggesting that, over time, the extended access may support a reduction in ED attendances.”

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