Greater Manchester patients to get seven-day GP access
A £41m plan to give everyone in Greater Manchester seven-day GP access has been approved.
The GM Health and Social Care Partnership Board said the move would make 24/7 urgent primary care provision easier for patients to access.
The additional access will revolve around neighbourhood hubs and "clusters" where weekend and evening appointments will be available.
The board said it hopes the plans will reduce pressure on hospital A&E units.
The investment will also provide patients access to a range of other health and social care services such as diagnostics, blood tests and X-rays as well as supporting nursing and residential homes.
Partnership chairman Lord Peter Smith said: "This £41m investment will ensure that our GPs across Greater Manchester are supported to provide high quality care now and in the future.
"Putting primary care back at the heart of our local communities is absolutely the right thing to do and shows how devolution can make gains for patients' right across Greater Manchester."
The plans do not mean that every GP practice in the region will have extra opening hours.
Instead it is envisaged patients having enhanced access at the neighbourhood level through "clusters" of practices working together, supported by a designated hub serving around 50,000 patients.
Dr David Wrigley, a Lancashire GP and BMA Council Deputy Chair, said: "It is good to hear about some new investment into general practice but I am concerned seven-day routine working is being rolled out when GPs struggle to provide a good five-day service, Monday to Friday, due to the years of under investment.
"We are short of thousands of GPs across the country and this new seven-day plan will seek to stretch my colleagues even more thinly across the week."
The board, which took control of the region's £6bn health and social care budget in 2016, was told 2,500 patients who could be treated elsewhere are dealt with every day in A&E units across the region.
The plan will build on some schemes already in operation in Greater Manchester, such as in Bury.
Bury has had full extended GP access in place since January 2015 with weekday appointments available up to 20:00, and from 08:00 to 18:00 at weekends, delivered from three hub sites.
Surgeries in England are currently expected to open between 08:00 and 18:30 on weekdays with extra funding available to those offering slots outside those hours.
But the government wants GPs to stay open longer unless they can prove the demand is not there.
Greater Manchester's primary care reform plans were approved at a meeting in Wigan.