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DH-praised GP extended hours scheme still to begin

Model for extended hours practices prematurely praised

Adrian O'Dowd

Tuesday, 08 October 2013

An extended GP hours scheme in Manchester that was praised by the Department of Health as a success and an inspiration for the rest of the country has not actually started operating yet, according to Pulse magazine.

The magazine has discovered that the extended hours scheme that the Department described last week as being “successfully piloted” and which health secretary Jeremy Hunt said was “leading the way” has not opened yet.

On 1 October, the Department issued a press release to accompany the announcement of plans for GP practices in nine areas of England to open 8am to 8pm seven days a week, backed by a £50m Challenge Fund.

In the original press release, the Department said: “The extended hours approach is already being successfully piloted in six GP practices in Manchester, where groups of GPs are coming together to offer evening and weekend GP access as part of a six-month trial to crack down on needless A&E visits.”

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said at the time: “Cutting-edge GP practices here in Manchester are leading the way, and we want many more patients across the country to benefit.”

However, the Department has now admitted to Pulse that it made a mistake and would be rectifying its statement.

The scheme in Manchester is still in preparation and is due to begin before the end of the year, although plans for it are in place.

Dr Ivan Benett, clinical director of Central Manchester CCG, told Pulse: “Central Manchester is in the process of piloting a ‘demonstrator’ project which will give consistent, high quality primary care to residents.

“In particular it will make it easier for people to make appointments to see a GP or nurse quickly, or at the most convenient time for them based on family, work or other commitments. We are aiming for the scheme to be operating by Christmas.”

Dr John Hughes, chair of the association of LMCs in Greater Manchester, also told the magazine: “We are as mystified as everybody else. Groups of practices are coming together in six areas of Greater Manchester as part of the Healthier Together programme; however they are not all doing extended hours [and those that are] have not started yet.”

A Department spokesperson was quoted by the magazine as saying: “This was a mistake in the press release which will be rectified in the online version shortly.”

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