Doctors told to open all hours to improve access for patients

Practices will be asked to open as early as 7am and as late as 10pm, her officials said. GPs also will be asked to provide a wider range of services at their practices, such as direct access to medical tests and local care for diabetes, asthma and arthritis.

Ms Hewitt's plans, which will be set out in a White Paper in the autumn, are part of a strategy for dealing with complaints by patients that they cannot get appointments with GPs when they need them. A recent report by health watchdogs found that more than five million patients were finding it difficult to get access to a GP despite promises by ministers last year that everyone would be able to get an appointment within 48 hours.

During the general election, Tony Blair was caught off guard over a complaint from an angry patient that the 48-hour target meant it was impossible to get a follow-up appointment a week later. He said he was "absolutely astonished" that GPs were refusing to make appointments more than two days in advance in an attempt to meet the target.

Ms Hewitt, who was ordered to sort out the problem, said thousands of people would soon find it easier to visit a GP thanks to a wave of new GP practices and walk-in services due to open next year in towns and cities that have the poorest access to primary care services. Six primary care trusts (PCTs) will get extra government support to improve patient access to NHS care without being referred to hospitals. The first patients to benefit under the programme will be those in London (two PCTs), Liverpool, Lancashire, Plymouth and Yorkshire.

With support from the Department of Health, PCTs in these areas will open three new walk-in services; two new GP practices; one nurse-led practice and employ more GPs, nurse practitioners and healthcare assistants. Ms Hewitt said GPs will have more power to commission services so local health care reflects the need of the community. By 2006, all PCTs will allow GPs to hold a budget for the treatment of their patients under practice-based commissioning.

Ms Hewitt said: "We are also going to bring forward practice-based commissioning so it is in operation across the NHS by 2006 rather than 2008, as we previously said. GPs are responsible for the vast majority of NHS patient contacts and commit the bulk of NHS resources through prescribing, treating and referring patients to other services. There are obvious benefits to patients if GPs control the budgets."

Patients in about 15 other areas affected by below-par GP recruitment and retention, limited GP availability and rises in population could also gain new services at their local practice as part of a second wave.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA's GP committee, said the 48-hour target was "not helpful in dealing with the underlying problem which is a shortage of capacity ... a shortage of GPs".

The Government has launched a fresh recruitment drive, but it takes years to train new GPs.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
life
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballI have never seen the point of lambasting the fourth official, writes Paul Scholes
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: IT Technical Support Engineer - PC/Mac

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company are cur...

    Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

    Recruitment Genius: External Relations Executive

    £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An External Relations Executive is requi...

    Ashdown Group: Web Developer (PHP & Wordpress) - Central London

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Web Dev...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee