/ Health

Should all GPs offer extended opening hours?

If like me and Dolly, you work nine to five to make a livin’, how easy is it for you to get an appointment with your GP out of work hours? And I don’t mean emergency appointments, but routine visits like medication reviews.

My previous GP surgery would only let me book appointments on the day I wanted them, and wouldn’t take bookings for that day until 8.30am.

Like many people, I would be halfway to work by this time. Also, it only offered appointments between 9am and 4.30pm – not very practical if you’re working during those hours. Thankfully, my current surgery is much bigger and better.

I can make appointments over the phone or online, and I can make them on the same day (if they have free slots) or weeks in advance. They also offer appointments between 8am and 8pm, Monday to Friday, so I can fit my asthma review or flu jab around work.

The needs of the many

It seems that my GP assessed the needs of local residents and provided a service to meet them. After all, most of us will need to see a doctor for a routine appointment at some point, and not everyone can take time off work without using up annual leave.

So I was surprised to read a recent article in the Guardian where a GP said she thought that extending GPs’ opening hours wouldn’t work. She cites an example of a woman who has missed regular appointments because her condition means she’s too tired for evening appointments, and her work won’t let her take paid time off to attend them.

But this isn’t a typical example of a working person who might, for example, need a check-up before renewing a prescription. Extended opening hours may not help this particular woman, but not having them will make it harder for many more people to access their GP.

The GP in the article also said that people don’t want extended hours. And yes, while 78% of patients in the latest GP survey said opening hours are convenient for them, 16% still said they aren’t.

How surgeries can work for their patients

Primary Care Trusts are required to ensure at least half of practices offer extended hours, but I think all GP surgeries should offer them at least one day a week with bookable appointments. After all, if you’re so ill that you need to see your GP urgently, you’re probably not going in to work anyway.

I appreciate this move will require more resources. My current surgery can probably offer extended opening hours as they have at least 10 doctors, where as my previous surgery had just three. But surely extended opening hours once a week should be workable? Maybe it would work better if surgeries set up a rota system – but only if priority didn’t go to a specific surgery’s patients.

The important thing is, surgeries need to be consulting with their patients and working out what is best for them. So my current GP is good, but how about yours? If your GP doesn’t have extended hours, does your employer make you take annual leave?

Comments
Guest
Vinnie says:
26 July 2012

I was surprised with appointment culture in UK when I came here 10 years back. Doctors behave as if bacteria and viruses arrive with appointment !

I avoid visiting GP at any cost. They provide good service when they attend, but whole process of scheduling appointment makes me think is it really worth?

My surgery got 5 doctors and they take patients on Saturday for emergency appointments. However their system of regular booking amazes me. You have to call surgery at 8.30 and book appointment for same day. On most occasion line is busy until 8.45; thereafter they already booked for the day and would only take emergency appointments. So your annual leave is wasted for the day!

It feels to me that government bureaucrats designed whole system of Monday to Friday 9-5 as if it is a government office. And GPs took advantage of it. Like Police, Fireman and similar professions Doctor is also in same league of profession. They must provide necessary flexibility. If they wanted to work only official hours then they should have joined other professions instead. Don’t join this profession if you don’t have time for patients.

Guest
missisr says:
31 July 2012

Just tried to book an appointment, it is the 31st July, the earliest appointment I can Have is the 30th August ONE MONTH’s TIME!!! I would happily attend out of hours, I could be seriously ill by the end of August but have been advised to ring each day to see if an earlier appointment comes up.

Guest

Well, since the average GP is on about 100k while half of the workforce is on £6.50 an hour or £2 odd when your an apprentice(!!!!) then it just strikes me this is a none issue. Things are completely out of hand. They could be on 24 hours and not be value for money.

Guest
Michael says:
13 June 2014

used to be one doctor at my practice now there is 4 old doctor used to get a appointment within 3 days new system just went in and next one available in 17 days this is a change in 12 months either we have a lot of sick people at the practice or over populated, a new practice opened 110 yards from my house lasted 24 months until the £500000 pounds yes that’s right ran out you could never get a appointment even if the surgery appeared empty a neighbour joined saw 7 different doctors non of which seemed to read his notes and kept giving him the same tablets which they should have known that he could not take ,It seemed take the money and run