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Almost two-thirds of North Tyneside patients have full access to out-of-hours GPs

BBC has acquired figure for out-of-hours medical provision.
BBC has acquired figure for out-of-hours medical provision.

Nearly two-thirds of patients in North Tyneside can see a GP outside of working hours seven days a week.

Figures from the BBC Shared Data Unit, released four years on from the Government’s high-profile pledge to introduce extended opening hours for every patient, show that 41 per cent of GP practices in England offer full provision for extended access.

In the NHS North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area, full provision - defined as access to appointments on Saturday and Sunday and on each weekday for at least one-and-a-half hours, either before 8am, after 6.30pm or both - is available to 62.1 per cent of patients.

While not among the top 20 per cent, this does mean North Tyneside is among approximately the top third of England’s 200-plus CCGs.

A further 35.1 per cent in the borough have access to partial provision - appointments outside working hours at least one day a week, leaving just 2.9 per cent with no access to out-of-hours provision.

There was no data available for one practice or 5,201 patients.

In North Tyneside, the service is provided by three hubs, which are operated by groups of GP practices, offering urgent and planned appointments on evenings and weekends.

Local GP Dr George Rae said: "Patients deserve the best possible access to their general practitioner. It is incongruous that, at a time when far too many patients are sometimes waiting weeks to get an appointment during the week to see their GP, the Government is focusing so much on extended access at weekends and in the evening.

“Sufficient resources and funding must be made available to core basic general practice. It is struggling to meeting patient demand with the existing complement of staff and doctors during the normal working week. This is what patients deserve but unfortunately, this is just not happening.

“Far too much of the supposed funding in the heralded General Practice Forward View is actually not getting through to practices to stabilise core general practice in the face of soaring demand and the critical shortage of GPs. This core funding must be delivered to bring about a manageable, safe workload for general practice and this would be to the benefit of patients.

“Government must really start to realise, before it is too late, that GPs are very innovative. There are many examples of services which could be built around an adequately funded core contract eg. providing extended access. We have done this in North Tyneside with the formation of four hubs where patients are seen out of normal hours.

“There are too many pots of money not being used in a way they should be. GPs are struggling with core general practice, why don’t we concentrate on that?

“This is the biggest crisis in General Practice. We are dealing with issues of manpower, capacity and safety at work. We need to resource core general practice. Extended access is a good idea but first things first.”

An NHS England spokesman said: “The NHS is investing at least £258million this year to offer improved access to general practice, including evening and weekend appointments. This is ahead of schedule with appointments available to more than half the country now, and they will be available across the whole country by October this year.

“The 55 per cent figure quoted in the planning guidance is based on data collected through the GP Forward View monitoring survey, which is completed by CCGs. This reflects the provision of extended access, including evening and weekend appointments, available to the local population over and above GP appointments available during normal working hours.

“The 40 per cent figure (seen in the open data analysed by the BBC Shared Data Unit) comes from the latest results of the extended access bi-annual survey, which collects information on extended access from individual GP practices, not all of which will provide evening and weekend appointments, as these may be provided through access hubs.”