Views & Reviews Personal View

Extending opening hours in general practice won’t improve access for patients most in need

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h1373 (Published 17 March 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h1373
  1. John A Ford, NIHR doctoral research fellow, Norwich Medical School, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK
  1. john.ford{at}uea.ac.uk

Seven day opening may be popular with affluent, working age people but may not benefit elderly people, immigrants, homeless people, or others from hard to reach groups, says John A Ford

Even the best healthcare system can benefit only those who can use it, and many see extending opening hours as an obvious way to improve access to general practice in the United Kingdom.1 In the second wave of the prime minister’s Challenge Fund, £100m (€141m; $151m) was earmarked for schemes aimed at improving access to general practice by extending evening and weekend opening and was open to applications until 16 January 2015.2

Here I discuss the potential benefits of longer opening hours and the likely winners and losers in the context of a shrinking budget for general practice. Extended opening may simply increase the expectations of patients with generally good health while further stretching services for patients who need healthcare the most.

Improving access to primary care, where more than 90% of patient contact happens, is arguably more important than improving …

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