The government’s case for seven-day working in primary care has taken another hit with a new batch of data suggesting that most patients don’t need weekend opening.

Using data from The General Practice Patient Survey 2014, researchers used “logistic regression” to measure the links between perceived benefit from seeing or speaking to someone at the weekend and age, sex, deprivation, health conditions, functioning, work status, rurality and quality of life.

According to the findings, which are published in the British Journal of General Practice, out of 881,183 participants responding to the questionnaire, 80.9% did not voice any problems with opening times.

Just under 20% reported inconvenient opening times, of which 73.9% said opening on a Saturday and 35.8% on a Sunday would boost access, and just 2.2% reported that having practices open on a Sunday, but not Saturday, opening would be helpful.

On the back of these findings the researchers conclude that the majority of people do not think they need weekend opening, “but it may benefit certain patient groups, such as younger people in full-time work”. Having practices open on a Sunday as well as a Saturday is unlikely to improve access, they stress.

Low demand

The news comes hot on the heels of calls to scrap plans to extend GP services after the first independent review of the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund revealed low demand for the move. 

According to the report, while the pilots have been successful at providing additional GP appointment time, some extended hour slots have been more successful than others - with demand for Sunday appointments being “very low” compared to weekday slots.

“Opening our surgeries seven days a week is simply not the best use of scant NHS resources,” said Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners. “We urge the Government to invest in general practice, including thousands more GPs, so that we can focus on what is most important to patients - a robust routine five day service and existing GP out of hours services, that are integrated and fit to deliver the care they need and deserve.”