Evening and weekend GP appointments not filled

Evening and weekend GP appointments not filled

Around 25% of evening and weekend appointments are being left unfilled, a Pulse investigation revealed on the day the policy was being rolled out across England. A Freedom of Information request by the publication which was answered in full by 80 CCGs, shows that across those around half a million appointment slots have been left empty on evenings and weekends.

Pulse notes that this comes as the average wait for an in-hours appointment remains at two weeks and one in six practices has had to stop booking routine appointments. Evening and weekend appointments have been gradually introduced since 2014, on the basis of a Conservative Party pledge which is now promising every patient that they will be able to book a routine appointment any day or evening by March 2019.

The Government and NHS England have continued to pump money into this scheme, with specific pledges being made in the GP Forward View, and CCGs given earmarked funding. In all, the NHS has committed more than £200m of new investment for the next year, on top of £144m in 2017/18. More than £500m is due to be invested per year by 2020/21.

Yet Pulse’s analysis of FOI responses from CCGs operating the scheme shows take-up remains lowest on Sundays, when 37% of appointments go unfilled, followed by Saturdays at 24%. On weekday evenings, 23% of slots go unused. Pulse estimates at least £15m has been wasted on the total of 501,396 unused extended hours slots across the 80 CCGs that responded to the FOI.

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