THOUSANDS of patients in Yorkshire will be among the first to benefit from seeing their family doctors outside working hours, thanks to a new fund to extend GP opening times.
More than 7.5 million people will get better access to their surgery through longer opening hours and new ways of consulting their GP using video-phone services, email and phone, Prime Minister David Cameron announced.
The £50m GP Access Fund means patients at 1,147 practices across England, including surgeries in Wakefield, Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby, will be able to see their family doctor outside working hours, including late night and weekend appointments, or choose another way of communicating with their GP for convenience.
Mr Cameron also announced plans to enhance care services for the elderly.
Around 800,000 people, including 84,000 in Yorkshire and the Humber, over the age of 75 and those with more serious health complaints will get tailored care, coordinated by just one local GP.
Dr Chris Jones, a GP at Church Street Surgery in Ossett, who led a £1.4m bid on behalf of six practices to improve access for 63,000 patients, said: “Patients have been telling us that they want to be able to see a GP more easily, they want care that wraps round their needs and they want to have a choice of how they interact with their doctor and other health professionals.
“This is exactly what our plans will offer.”
Patients in Wakefield will benefit from longer opening hours, from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week, and longer appointments for older people with more complex needs.
They will be able to consult by email, take part in a real-time web chat, and book appointments online with practice-based pharmacists or physiotherapists. A mobile “health pod” will travel round the community offering screening, health education and tips on self-care.
GPs will be able to talk to consultants while the patient is in surgery, reducing the need for an additional appointment at the hospital.
Also in Yorkshire, “Together as One Community”, a bid from GPs in Hambleton, Richmondshire, Whitby, was awarded £2.48m.
Mr Cameron described the changes as “an important step and good news for patients”.
He said: “Back in October, I said I wanted to make it easier for people to get appointments that fit in around a busy working week and family commitments. There has been a great response from doctors, with lots of innovative ideas, and we will now see over seven million patients given weekend and evening opening hours.”
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association’s General Practice Committee, called on Ministers to deliver on their pledge to increase the number of GPs, nurses and other health and social care services to look after the escalating number of patients who need care closer to home. He said: “This will enable GPs to be properly supported and have the time and ability to deliver the personalised care that patients deserve.”
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said for the vast majority “things will carry on getting worse”. He said: “(People) are being told to expect to wait a week for a GP appointment. No wonder more and more people are turning to A&E, which has just had its worst year in a decade.”