GPs to open Saturday and evening appointments in NHS shake up

2 March 2022, 20:45

GPs will have to start seeing patients on Saturdays and weekday evenings
GPs will have to start seeing patients on Saturdays and weekday evenings. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

GP appointments will be opened up for patients to see them on Saturdays and in the evenings under new NHS plans.

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Doctors will start seeing people up to 8pm on weekdays and between 9am and 5pm on Saturday.

Family doctors, nurses, screenings, vaccinations and health checks will be available out of hours.

All primary care networks in England will need to provide the service from October.

Dr Nikki Kanani, the NHS medical director for primary care and a GP, said: "Our general practice teams have been working flat out throughout the pandemic to care for patients, and it is their huge efforts that have meant the NHS could protect millions of people at speed through the Covid-19 vaccination programme.

"The NHS is focused on recovering services and tackling the Covid-19 backlogs that have inevitably built up over the pandemic and so as part of the contract for general practice in 2022/23, extra funding will be given to primary care teams to increase checks for cancer and heart conditions for our patients.

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"The contract for general practice will also see an increase in staff to treat more patients including more mental health practitioners and the option to book some appointments, such as for cervical screening, online for the first time, so please do not hesitate coming forward for care if you need it."

The measures follow criticism that some patients were struggling to see GPs face to face, instead having to go through virtual appointments.

As part of the package, surgeries will also be told to make 25% of their appointments online – potentially increasing waiting times on the phone for those not using the internet to arrange sessions.

The NHS said its plan is "in line with patient preference and need".

Patients may also not end up attending their usual surgery for out-of-hours appointments.

But the British Medical Association’s GP committee chair, Dr Farah Jameel, said: "We are bitterly disappointed that NHS England has chosen to ignore the appeals from the profession and the needs of patients in the letter.

"Despite our best efforts to outline a number of positive and constructive solutions that would make a difference to practices' ability to improve care for patients, NHS England has instead decided to follow a path laid out three years ago, long before the arrival of Covid-19, and roll over a contract that fails to address the current pressures faced by general practice."