Seven-day GP access pilots have had significant reductions in the number of A&E attendances and admissions, but might be most effective in ‘strategically located surgeries’, researchers have claimed.
The study by the University of Sussex and published in the Journal of Health Economics found that seven-day opening did little to divert A&E attendances for minor injuries, but it was effective for older patients and more affluent patients.
A&E attendances were reduced by 10% across the week among patients whose practice was piloting seven-day access, with reductions of 18% seen on Saturday and Sunday.
But GP leaders have called for caution in interpreting the study, which contrasts with others – including the Government’s own assessment – which found Sunday opening was less popular.
Researchers looked at 34 practices in Central London, some of whom have been piloting seven-day working since 2013 – before the national seven-day access pilots funded by the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund.
Pulse has revealed that a quarter of practices in the national Challenge Fund pilot have curtailed opening hours, or stopped all together, because of a lack of demand.
The access pilots were also meant to become self-funding by freeing up funding from more expensive hospital attendaces, but NHS England has had to plough more money into schemes to keep them operating.
And a further £500m was pledged to support the roll-out of seven-day access in the GP Forward View.
The study states: ‘We found a large and statistically significant reduction of 9.9% in A&E attendances overall and 17.9% in weekend A&E attendances by the patients registered at the pilot practices.’