A COMMUNITY action group has thrown it's support behind the Prime Minister's calls to extend GP opening hours, in a bid to reduce pressure on Accident and Emergency departments.
The scheme, which will aim to improve access to GP services for working people, will mean that GP services will be open around the clock, seven days a week.
Current evening opening hours for Uttoxeter are limited to three evenings a week, with Balance Street Practice offering a Monday, Tuesday and Friday evening surgery between 6.30pm and 7.45pm and Northgate Surgery offering evening surgery on a Monday until 8.30pm.
Jerry Latham, of the Patient Participation Group said at a recent Uttoxeter Community Action Group meeting: “It’s often the case that people who don’t really need the A&E departments are going there out-of-hours simply because they cannot get an appointment at their GP.
“This leads to a strain on the A&E departments, and makes waiting times longer for those who are there in a genuine emergency.
“Many people that visit actually aren’t urgent cases and should really be getting appointments at their GP.
“However we are lucky in Uttoxeter that people are usually able to get a same day appointment.
“In other areas some people are having to wait for weeks to get an appointment, so extended hours services does reduce the number of people wasting time in A&E."
David Cameron said: “Sometimes people using Accident & Emergency really just need to see a GP but for hard-working people it is often too difficult because you are at work, you can't get an appointment at the time that fits.
"Let's see if we can have GPs' surgeries open 12 hours a day, seven days a week so you can always get that appointment you need.”
A spokesperson for the Staffordshire branch of NHS England said, “We work with GP practices in our area to offer an extended hours service and are currently working with practices to try to increase uptake of the appointments in sessions which are outside of normal practice hours.
“We are committed to ensuring that all patients have access to local, high-quality GP services.”
However, concerns have been raised that recent cuts in spending on GP services, would mean that this new scheme is unfeasible.
Analysis by the Royal College of GPs suggests that over the past three years, investment in general practice has fallen by £400 million, which is the equivalent to a seven per cent spending cut per patient.
Mr Latham added: "However, because of spending cuts, extended opening hours may cost the practices more if GPs are unable to fill all their evening appointments.
"This has the potential to affect Balance Street Surgery, as they do not fill all their appointment slots.
"This is wrong - surgeries should not be penalised for offering an efficient service."
At the time of going to press GPs from Northgate Surgery and Balance Street Surgery were unavailable for comment.