NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group has suspended a pilot testing seven-day access to GP services because of a lack of patient demand.

The CCG is pulling the plug on the scheme after just four months as just 12% of appointments on Sundays and less than half on Saturdays were taken up by patients, according to Pulse.

“It was also interesting to note that many patients did not want to book appointments at surgeries other than their own which does show that the ‘hub’ model of delivery was not popular and something we need to consider moving forward,” CCG clinical lead Vicky Pleydell told the publication.

The news doesn’t bode well for Prime Minister David Cameron’s plans to introduce seven-day GP services across England by 2020, particularly as other areas in the country running pilot schemes funded by the PM’s £150-million Challenge Fund are also reporting low uptake for weekend access.

Local decisions crucial

Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the findings highlight that it is essential CCGs “have the autonomy to tailor services to the needs of their local population”.

Moreover, she argues that GPs should be free to use cash from the Challenge Fund where it is most needed and in the best interests of their patients, “which for some communities will involve offering seven-day access, and in others won’t”.

And while ensuring patients have widespread access to GP services is “extremely important”, Dr Baker also stressed “prioritising weekend and evening access must not come at the expense of access and services during normal hours so that patients end up worse off”.