Health Minister Ben Bradshaw today underlined the government's commitment to investment in family doctor services on a visit to a newly opened GP health centre near Nottingham.
Six GP surgeries and 15 GP-led health centres are being procured across the East Midlands as part of the government's drive to improve access to and choice of GP services, using their share of £250m additional funding.
The first of these will be open to patients by the end of the year, offering extended opening hours and a broader range of services.
According to the Department of Health, local GPs have shown a "strong interest" in being potential providers, bidding in their existing business model or in collaboration with other providers.
Ben Bradshaw (pictured) said: "There has been a lot of irresponsible scare-mongering over recent months that the government is planning to close local GP surgeries and replace them with larger centralised health centres.
"The public will still have their local GP practice, but they will also have access to a range of new GP services around the country that are open from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week, and can use these new services while still being registered with their own practice.
"Patients tell us that access to GP services is a real issue – they want to be able to see GPs at evenings and weekends, or when they are away from home. People want healthcare that is more personalised and convenient, so primary care services need to adapt to respond to this need."
The new Kirkby-in-Ashfield centre offers extended opening hours from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and Saturday mornings, as well as: enhanced services for patients with learning disabilities and heart disease; weight management programmes and smoking cessation services.
Mr Bradshaw said: "We know that the fewer GPs an area has, the worse the health of the local population is. I'm pleased to come to Nottingham to see examples of innovation and new services being provided here at the Kirkby-in-Ashfield Community Primary Care Centre, which are making a real difference to patients."