Nearly half of clinical commissioning groups are not providing “full” extended GP opening hours anywhere in their patch, HSJ analysis of the latest official data shows.

CCGs were told in the 2017-19 planning guidance, published in September, to make plans to extend GP consultation hours. Under new targets, from April 2019 all CCGs must:

  • Offer weekday provision of access to pre-bookable and same day appointments after 6.30pm, to increase opening hours by an extra hour and a half per day.
  • Commission pre-bookable, same day appointments on Saturdays and Sundays “to meet local population needs”.

Commissioners will be able to achieve this coverage through a variety of ways including offering extended hours appointments through GP hubs.

In October, practices were asked by NHS England to answer a survey about the level of access to extended hours GP appointments available to patients through their own practice or a group of practices.

According to data published last week, 98 out of 209 CCGs did not have any “full” extended access coverage. Just 12 had 100 per cent coverage of “partial” access, and no CCGs had 100 per cent “full” access.

In the survey, which 7,139 practices responded to, NHS England defined full extended access provision as: patients have access to pre-bookable appointments on Saturdays, Sundays and each weekday for at least 1.5 hours, either in the early morning before 8am, or in the evening after 6pm; through the practice or the group the practice is a member of.

Partial extended access provision was defined as: patients have access to pre-bookable appointments on at least one day of the week through the practice or the group which the practice is a member of, but the extent of access offered if not sufficient to meet criteria of full provision.

Map: CCGs’ coverage for ’full’ and ‘partial’ extended GP access

  • Yellow - 0 up to 20 per cent
  • Green - 20 up to 40 per cent
  • Pink - 40 up to 60 per cent
  • Red - 60 up to 80 per cent
  • Blue - 80 up to 100 per cent

An NHS England spokesman said: “We know just how much the public value a timely GP appointment, so it is encouraging to see from these figures that local GP practices, by working together, are offering evening and weekend appointments to the vast majority. These figures confirm that the best approach for offering extended access is not for each practice to have to do so on its own, but instead to share appointments across practices.”

Graham Jackson, co-chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners, said: “While we were pleased that the planning guidance recognised primary care as a priority, it did so alongside eight other critical ‘must dos’, including returning the system to an aggregate financial balance.

“Beyond the finances there is, of course, the current workforce challenges that will undoubtedly impact on achieving the extended access requirements.

“There is no one size fits all solution for delivering the extended access requirement and it is critical that CCGs are given the freedoms and flexibilities to invest in the best way for their local populations.”