15 February

A new study has found that a greater level of detailed evidence is required, before serious consideration can be given to the extension of GP opening hours. Core hours in English GP practices are already longer than the majority of their counterparts across Europe.

The study was published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine and benchmarked the current general practice hours with other European systems, finding that ‘standard opening hours in England already exceed those of most other European countries’.

It also said that, in comparison, patients in the UK were ‘satisfied with out-of-hours access to general practice’.

The study comes despite a recent £1.5bn push toward delivering 8am-8pm, seven days a week GP opening hours by 2021. This push came despite a lack of convincing evidence on patient demand for the service and whether it takes the pressure off A&E departments.

The researchers found that 80% of English respondents were able to make an appointment with their GP that they found convenient on their most recent attempt and 80% of patients were satisfied with the opening hours of their general practice.

Standard hours for general practices in England were stated as 8am to 6:30 pm, from Monday to Friday.
Lead author of the study Dr Benedict Hayhoe, a GP in central London and clinical lecturer at Imperial College London, said: ‘With so many competing priorities for NHS resources, and existing primary care services significantly under resourced, we feel that stronger evidence of real need and patient demand would be necessary to justify further extension of GP opening hours.’

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