GP Surgeries to bid for funding to open from 8am to 8pm - seven days a week

Health Secretary pledges £50m for GP Skype sessions and telephone consultations

Whitehall Editor

GP surgeries will be able to bid for Government funding to roll out Skype and telephone consultations with patients as well as extend their opening hours, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will announce tomorrow.

Around 50 GP surgeries across the country covering half a million patients are expected to benefit from £50 million in new funding to upgrade their systems and take on extra staff.

If the pilot is successful it is likely to be rolled out to other practices with the eventual aim of offering 8am to 8pm consultations alongside weekend opening and ‘telecare’.

However it is unclear how the roll-out will be funded at a time when NHS budgets overall are under unprecedented pressure.

Under the initial scheme GP practices will be able to bid for funding that would cover the initial reconfiguration costs. Ministers hope to learn from the results of the pilot and encourage other GPs to participate.

"We live in a 24/7 society, and we need GPs to find new ways of working so they can offer appointments at times that suit hard-working people,” said Mr Hunt.

"Cutting-edge GP practices are leading the way, and we want many more patients across the country to benefit.”

Professor Steve Field, Chief Inspector for General Practice, added that the move to seven day services should be “embraced” by GPs.

“I want to see brilliant access to GP services for patients across the country, and will be assessing this in each practice I inspect,” he said.

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