More access to family GP’s needed

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Increase in daytime appointments could cut out of hours care

Researchers claim that by improving access to family GP’s rather than extending opening hours, the demand for out-of-hours services could be cut by as much as 11%.

Experts from the University of Cambridge Institute of Public Health and the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth believe that the difficulties in getting to see a family doctor create a rise in demand for out-of-hours primary care services. This in turn has been blamed for growing pressure on hospitals.

However, the study shows that  the biggest cause of pressure is the difficulty in seeing a GP during normal working hours.

Appointment times

The research focused on five factors: ease of getting through on the phone during standard hours; ability to see preferred GP; ability to book a routine or urgent (within two working days) appointment; and convenience of opening hours.

They discovered that poorer access to GP services during standard working hours was linked to a greater use of out-of-hours primary care services. Convenience of opening hours was the strongest factor associated with out-of-hours service use and this was most evident among those who work part time or are not in work or education.

However, they say their results indicate that improving access to daytime GP services is more complicated than just extending opening hours. Offering more appointments during regular surgery hours may help reduce the use of out-of-hours primary care services.