Figures showing GP opening hours across Wales for the last two years (2010 and 2011) were published for the first time today, demonstrating an overall increase in access, Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said.
Progress is well underway to eliminate half-day closing for GP practices.
Practices will also be required to provide more appointments at the start and the end of the day to improve access for working people, she said.
Today’s figures show:
- 149 GP practices in Wales (31 per cent) were open throughout the day during the core hours of 8:00am to 6:30pm in 2011 – a 12 per cent increase from 2010;
- 229 practices (48 per cent) were open 95 per cent or more of core hours – 11 percentage points higher than 2010;
- 12 per cent of practices opened for additional hours in 2011 – an increase of three percentage points from the previous year; and
- 19 per cent of practices were closed for half a day on one or more days a week in 2011 – six percentage points lower than the previous year.
Lesley Griffiths said:
“Whilst GPs in Wales are working hard to ensure they meet the needs of patients within their local area, there is still more to be done to ensure we deliver our commitment of improved access to GP services.
“Today’s figures show 31 per cent of GP practices were open every day, all day - a 12 per cent increase on 2010 figures. Fewer practices are closing for half-days and more are offering appointments outside the core hours of 8:00am and 6:30pm.
“However, we are committed to further increasing access.
“By April next year, the number of GP practices which will close half-day will be further reduced, and more GP practices will be required to offer appointments early in the morning and toward the end of the day, up to 6.30pm to provide a more convenient service to working people.”
Ms Griffiths said this would have no additional cost implications as it would be achieved under the existing GP contract by redistributing appointments during core contracted hours.
From April 2013, the focus will be on extended opening and access to appointments after 6.30pm. In addition, access to early morning appointments is also being addressed, particularly in rural areas for people who have long commutes. A review is also currently underway to explore options for ensuring access on Saturday mornings.
Ms Griffiths said patients also had a responsibility to keep appointments.
“I am aware in some cases, patients who have made appointments have failed to attend. Patients have a responsibility to cancel appointments when they are unable to attend, so they can be offered to others who need to see their GP. It is vital GPs valuable time is not wasted and I fully support actions taken by Health Boards and GP practices to reduce these occurrences."