Manchester is rolling out the biggest seven-day GP access scheme in the country, offering 600,000 people appointments on evenings and weekends.

The city’s 91 GP practices are working together to staff the new service, which allows clinicians to access patients’ medical records regardless of where in Manchester they are registered, under a city-wide federation called The Manchester Primary Care Partnership.

Its chair, GP Sohail Munshi, believes the move will significantly improve services for patients. “School age children, working families and carers are amongst some of those who will benefit greatly from being able to see a GP or nurse in the evenings and at weekends,” he said.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has also applauded the move. “Manchester is leading the way in providing the GP service that all patients want - a service that’s available seven days a week, with evening and weekend appointments to suit their busy lives,” he noted. 

The £5.4-million scheme is funded by the Prime Minister’s £150 million GP Access Fund, which is designed to help improve access to general practice and stimulate innovative ways of providing primary care services, and marks a major step forward in the government’s drive to ensure a fully operational seven-day service by 2020.

Eighteen million people across the country will have better access to a GP by March 2016 through the Prime Minister’s GP access fund, the government says, claiming that data from areas already covered thus far show a 15% reduction in cases of people turning up at A&E departments with minor ailments compared to the previous year.

'Not the best use of resources'

But Maureen Baker, chair go the Royal College of the Royal College go GPs, insists that “opening our surgeries seven days a week is simply not the best use of scant NHS resources”. While conceding that expanded services will be used and valued in some areas, “it is essential Clinical Commissioning Groups have the autonomy to tailor services to the needs of their local population”, she stressed.

Research published in the British Journal of General Practice last November showed that, out of 881,183 participants responding to the GP Patient Survey 2014, 80.9% did not voice any problems with opening times, also going against a national blanket approach to seven-day access.