Study raises questions over seven-day GP access after some pilot schemes 'cut hours'

Research by Pulse found that several of the pilot schemes have cut weekend or evening hours Credit: PA

An investigation by the GP magazine Pulse suggests that schemes giving seven-day access to GPs are less popular with the public than might be expected.

Pilot schemes set up by the government to improve seven-day access to GPs have cut their hours, partly due to a lack of demand, according to the magazine.

Research by Pulse found that out of 18 pilot schemes, eight have now either cut weekend or evening hours, or stopped providing the service altogether.

In one example, five Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in north-west London were found to have cut the hours of their seven-day access pilots.

A spokesman from Londonwide Local Medical Committees, which represents London GPs, told Pulse: "The CCGs have found that weekend opening is not as popular as first thought, so weekend hours covered have been modified."

Elsewhere, in Devon the Devon Doctors Group, which was running part of the pilot in south-west England, said that its four 9am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday appointment sites were "no longer in operation".

The NHS Slough CCG said its pilot has reduced weekend access to four hours on Saturday and Sunday, having originally offered 9am to 5pm on both days.

In Derbyshire, although there are still two seven-day hubs, they have cut hours from four hours a day to two hours on weekdays, and 12 hours a day to three hours at weekends, Pulse reported.

Dr John Ashcroft, executive officer at Derbyshire Local Medical Committees, said his local pilots have taken money away from existing services.

The magazine's findings would appear to be a blow to the government's plans for seven-day working at the NHS, but a spokeswoman for the Department of Health warned Pulse had an "agenda" and had failed to show the "full facts".

She said an independent evaluation of the wave one schemes "will be published soon".

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