health leaders - Nantwich Health Centre, based at Church View Primary Care Centre

Thousands of registered GP patients in Nantwich and Crewe still do not have access to out of hours appointments, latest figures revealed today.

Only 13% of the 185,538 patients registered in the South Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group area have full out of hours provision, according to data compiled by the BBC and shared with Nantwich News.

And that’s just one practice out of 17 in the area, accounting for 24,338 patients.

Meanwhile, 11,499 patients in two practices have no access at all to out of hours appointments.

The vast majority of patients – 80.7% based in 14 practices – have partial provision. The report does not identify individual practices.

The figures emerge as CCGs have until October to meet the pledge set down by the Government in 2015 that all patients should have access to appointments before 9am and after 6pm on weekdays, and on Saturdays and Sundays.

In neighbouring Eastern Cheshire CCG, none of the 208,252 registered patients have access to full out of hours provision, and 44,435 patients based in six practices don’t even have partial provision.

Under the Government pledge, the public was promised seven-day, 8am-8pm access to pre-bookable and same-day appointments to general practice services in the morning, evening and weekends.

NHS England and NHS Improvement said it had a set target of October 1 2018 for all patients to have access to extended hours, instead of the end of March 2019 as originally planned.

Full provision means patients have access to pre-bookable appointments on a Saturday and on Sundays and on each weekday for at least 1.5 hours; in the early morning before 8am, in the evening after 6.30pm or in both morning and evening, through the practice or a group of which the practice is a member.

No provision, means patients have no access to pre-bookable appointments outside of core contractual hours either at their own practice or through a group of practices of which their practice is a member of.

Partial provision, means patients have access to pre-bookable appointments on at least one day a week, through the practice or the practice group, but the extended access offered is not sufficient to meet the criteria of full provision.

The minimum provision to meet this criteria is 1.5 hours once a week.

A spokesperson for NHS South Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), told Nantwich News: “NHS South Cheshire GP Practices have been offering extended access appointments to local residents since 2015 through the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund.

“The CCG has been working to further improve access to pre-bookable and bookable on the day appointments in the early morning, evenings and weekends.

“In line with national requirements, by October every registered patient in South Cheshire should have access to appointments, seven days a week.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “General practice is facing intense resource and workforce pressures at the moment.

“Our workload has increased exponentially in terms of volume and complexity, but the share of the NHS budget we receive is less than it was a decade ago, and GP numbers are actually decreasing.

“We want to give patients access to services they need, and actually the great majority of GP practices are providing extended access to their services in some form already.

“But we know patient demand for these services varies, and it is essential that GP practices retain the flexibility to deliver their services in the most effective way, tailored to meet local patient need – not to meet arbitrary targets whereby their considerable efforts to provide additional services come to no avail.

“With the significant workforce constraints we are currently working under, extra services might only be offered by compromising existing services – either reducing the quantity or quality of core hours offerings, or both.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We want everyone to have access to GP services, including routine appointments at evenings and weekends – and already millions of patients have benefited from this which is backed by our investment of an extra £2.4 billion a year into general practice by 2021.”

But Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jonathan Ashworth MP said: “This is yet more evidence that the Tories have broken their promises on access to GPs seven days a week.

“The truth is that years of austerity has taken its toll on general practice. We need a serious long term investment plan for primary care.”

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