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?