What Impact Will Evening And Weekend GP Appointments Have On GPs?
This week it was announced that patients across England will now have 7-day access to GP services. While many practices across the country have offered this service in the past, now all patients will be able to access evening and weekend GP appointments. It’s a move that’s come at a time when there’s never been a greater need thanks to the usual winter pressures, but how will this impact GPs?
7-day GP appointments
Trials have been taking place in many areas to test the availability of seven-day GP appointments in England, and now the move has been rolled out across all parts of the country. The launch has come three months ahead of schedule in a bid to tackle the growing pressures faced by the NHS at this time of year. With many hospitals already reporting overcrowding in their hospitals, evening and weekend GP appointments could be seen as a solution to the problem.
The move means that there are now nine million extra appointments available each year to patients, providing them with flexible services – especially around the busy winter period.
The impact of evening and weekend GP appointments on doctors
In order to ensure that patients use the seven-day service, the NHS has launched an advertising campaign to highlight its availability. However, with one in four appointments going unused during the trials, there are concerns that the nationwide roll-out could bring problems to GPs.
Issues surrounding the growing shortage of GPs have led some to call the availability of evening and weekend appointments ‘a luxury’. However, the NHS argues that an additional £3.5 billion of funding will be put into primary care and community health services, which will provide improvements to regular GP services. While officials believe it will be a good move to benefit patients during the winter, the move has been met with uncertainty by doctors.
Many GPs have worked hard to be able to offer evening and weekend GP appointments to patients, in order to provide additional appointments at a time that suits them. However, with a fall in the number of GPs working in practices, the pressure to fill additional appointments could add further strain to the role, with GPs having to work additional hours to meet demand.
The move comes at a time when GPs are also facing extra workloads in order to tackle fake medicines, with fears that more time will be spent dispensing, while IT systems will also need to be updated in order to cope with the new security measures being put in place.
It’s also been revealed that GP practices were paid just £13 a month per patient last year, and while it’s been argued that this means value for money for the Government, it shows the lack of investment being given to GP practices in spite of rising demand for services.
While additional appointments could ease the number of weekday appointments taken up in practices, there’s also a danger that services will continue to be pressured until more funding is provided.
Easing winter strain on services
While the additional evening and weekend GP appointments could help to meet the demand over winter, encouraging patients to only use services if they’re absolutely necessary is another strategy that could ease the strain. Out of hours services are there for patients who need urgent medical care, and could help patients treat themselves at home, rather than having to fill up GP waiting rooms unnecessarily.
If you’re interested in finding out more about working in out of hours, you can do so on our jobs pages, where you’ll also be able to find out more about the latest vacancies in East Berkshire.