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Extended opening for GP practices in Wales

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Plans to improve access to GP surgeries in Wales have been announced by the Welsh government.

Health minister Lesley Griffiths outlined a three-phased approach to improving access to GP surgeries, with a focus on making appointments “more convenient for working people”.

During the first phase – already underway – appointments will be redistributed towards the latter part of the day, between 5.00 and 6.30pm. Early morning appointments will also be available where needed.

The first phase will also see a reduction in the number of practices with half day or lunchtime closing.

The second phase will focus on later evening appointments, after 6.30pm, to meet the needs of patients who have difficulty in attending earlier in the day.

At the moment, 12% of GP practices offer extended opening after 6.30pm. The Welsh government said it “anticipated” that during 2013-14 this would rise to 30% and by March 2016 it was expected to reach 50%.

The third phase of the programme will see the provision of planned appointments at weekends.

Ms Griffiths said improving access to GP surgeries was one of the government’s top five commitments. “It is our intention to deliver this commitment within existing budgets, she said.”

Peter Meredith Smith, associate director (employment relations) of the Royal College of Nursing in Wales, said: “It is important to remember that practice nurses will be delivering much of this care.

“The whole concept of ‘out of hours’ is antiquated,” he said. “Extra nurses and nurse practitioners could contribute to increased access for patients in general practice, if they are appropriately trained to respond to the wide range of presenting complaints that patients may seek help for.  

“We would advise the Government to consult with pharmacists and nurses to address this very real issue of access. Investing in primary care reduces demand on secondary services.”

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