Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Health and Social Services
This Statement is to inform Assembly Members of the publication of a Statistical Article on GP opening hours for the years 2010 and 2011. The article shows improvement in the opening hours of GP practices and highlights:
- 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.
Improving access to GP services is a key Government commitment. By April next year, the number of GP practices which close half-day will be further reduced and more GP practices will offer appointments towards the end of the day (up to 6.30pm) to provide greater access for working people.
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.
The intention is to deliver this commitment within existing budgets by continually reviewing and reprioritising funding.
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 the delivery of the Government’s commitment to improve access to GP services. Health Boards have been working with GPs and taking action to improve access in the last twelve months, in particular:
- Aneurin Bevan launched its Access Accreditation Scheme in January 2012 to reflect the quality of access offered by each GP practice. Of the 91 practices, 26 have achieved the maximum 5A rating;
- Cardiff and Vale and Cwm Taf Health Boards have a strong focus on reducing half day closures. Cwm Taf has now eradicated half day closing in all but one practice, and in Cardiff and Vale, plans are in place for half day closing to cease in all but 2 practices by May 2012;
- In Abertawe Bro Morgannwg 31% of practices currently offer extended access after 6.30pm. The Health Board also offers an Access Forum to further improve access and to reduce wasted appointments by patients not attending;
- Powys has written to all GP practices setting out key standards for access, and regular discussions are held with the Community Health Council (CHC) to ensure patients’ views are considered;
- Hywel Dda has recently held an Access Workshop involving GPs, practice managers and CHCs and
- Betsi Cadwaladr is considering developing an Access Accreditation Scheme, which has as a requirement no half day closures in order to achieve an A rating.