Booking in an appointment with your GP can be incredibly challenging, especially for those who work full time. Due to traditional office hours clashing with those of a doctor’s surgery, it can become near impossible to find a convenient time to schedule in a visit. But now a new policy means that this could all be about to change.
The NHS has announced that evening and weekend consultations will be introduced across the country, offering an extra nine million appointments a year.
The initiative comes over three years after former Prime Minister David Cameron declared his plans for the NHS to run seven days a week, and is already three months ahead of schedule, according to NHS England.
It was recently revealed that the current shortage of GPs has left one in five patients (around five million people a month) waiting two weeks or more to see their doctor. The extended hours have been introduced to combat this as well as reducing the immense pressure on medics during the winter.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘All practices in England now offer some form of extended access to routine GP services, and they will have tailored these to the needs of their local population.’
She also added that the high demand for GPs has meant practises have been forced to ask patients to consider how much they really need to see a doctor, saying: ‘We encourage patients to think about whether they really need to see a GP, or whether self-care or visiting a pharmacist are options in the first instance.’
Last week, statistics were revealed stating that the NHS was set to experience its ‘toughest winter yet.’ However, it is hoped that the extended hours will make this easier to manage as people can visit their GPs at suitable times and ultimately result in less people visiting hospitals for emergency appointments.