This policy was carried over from the 2015 Conservative Party manifesto. At that time, the promise was to ensure patients could see a GP seven days a week by 2020. The 2017 manifesto updated the pledge and brought forward the deadline to 2019, suggesting optimism about the chances of success.
Following the 2015 manifesto pledge, there was a period of controversy over its planned implementation. There were questions over the reliability of the evidence behind the policy; questions over whether it would be affordable; and questions over whether there were enough staff in place for the planned extra hours.
Despite these concerns, by March 2017, the Next Steps on the Five Year Forward View included a bold assertion:
“By March 2018, the Mandate requires that 40% of the country will benefit from extended access to GP appointments at evenings and weekends, but we are aiming for 50%. By March 2019 this will extend to 100% of the country.”
It also included a fine tuning of the promise, making clear that it did not require all practices to be open every evening or weekend, but that instead they could cooperate to ensure patient access.
By December 2018, NHS England was able to announce that “all patients across England can now access general practice appointments in the evening and weekends”. At the time of writing, the latest available data, published in September 2018, shows that “534 (8.0%) practices do not provide any extended access”. Presumably NHS England believes that percentage will be zero at the publication of the next batch of data.
We’ll be checking for the next release of data on extended access to GPs. Until then we’re taking NHS England at its word and marking this policy as ‘done’. Follow this policy to see if it stays that way.
Access the facts – get the details
- 2015 Conservative Party manifesto
- A 7/7 NHS: what price equity? – BMJ
- Politicians must be honest with the public about the NHS – The King’s Fund
- NHS weekend: 7-day GP opening ‘unachievable’ – BBC News
- Next Steps on the Five Year Forward View – NHS
- Evening and weekend general practice appointments available across England – NHS England
- Extended access to general practice – NHS England