More than 50% of GP surgeries are now offering patients extended opening hours, hitting the government target three months early, the Department of Health (DH) announced today (14 October 2008).
Statistics released by the DH show that in under six months there has been a 40% increase in the number of practices offering more flexible early morning, evening and weekend opening.
At the end of September, 51% of the 8,275 GP practices in England offered extended opening hours – which means GPs have already met the challenging government target of 50% of practices offering extended opening hours by the end of the year.
Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson, said: "In a modern NHS, ensuring that busy patients have access to a GP at a convenient time is a top priority. I am extremely pleased to announce that so many practices are now offering greater flexibility in their opening hours.
"Thanks to the hard work of GPs and the local NHS we have achieved our challenging target ahead of schedule. It is fantastic news for GPs and patients that over half of GP practices up and down the country are now offering evening or weekend appointments, and shows the progress achieved in delivering on the goals set out in Lord Darzi's NHS review."
In response to these figures, Chief Executive of the National Association for Patient Participation, Graham Box, said: "Patients greatly value high-quality general practice and it is real progress when this is provided in a way that better suits local people.
"This is not just a question of convenience since improved access will also improve health outcomes, as people will be less likely to put off going to see their GP."
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