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General Practitioners: Working Hours

Volume 479: debated on Monday 1 September 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the evidential basis was for his Department's decision to seek an extension of GP opening hours in England. (221231)

There was a range of information that informed the basis for putting in place measures to improve patient access to general practice.

Responses to the 2007 GP Patient Survey indicated that 16 per cent. of people, around six and a half million patients, were unhappy with their general practitioner (GP) practices’ opening hours.

The consultative event held in September 2007, which preceded Lord Darzi's interim report, showed that many people sought the opportunity to access routine primary care from a GP in the evenings or at weekends.

The British Medical Association's own survey of GPs in October 2007 showed that a majority of GPs would be willing to provide extended opening hours and agreed that patients wanted such a service.

Other surveys of the public carried out by Which? and other consumer representative organisations similarly show that patients want to have greater flexibility in opening times to be able to see a GP.

The 2008 GP Patient Survey results, carried out between January and March and published on 16 July 2008, showed that 18 per cent. of people—as many as seven and a half million patients nationally—want to see improvements in the opening hours of their local GP practice. This increase in dissatisfaction from the 2007 survey results reinforces the importance of primary care trusts working with local practices to deliver more flexible access for patients.