The Government has committed to ensuring that everyone can see their general practitioner at a convenient time by increasing the availability of routine appointments in general practice in the evening and at the weekend.
By March 2019, all clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) should provide extended access to general practice for the whole of their registered population, subject to local demand. This includes ensuring that access is available during peak times of demand, including bank holidays and across the Easter, Christmas and New Year periods. This deadline was brought forward to 1 October 2018 in the latest National Health Service planning guidance, which was published by NHS England in February 2018, to ensure additional capacity is in place ahead of winter 2018.
The delivery of the commitment is assessed in two ways, which use different measures of extended access.
The first measure relies on NHS England’s bi-annual survey of extended access, which collects data direct from general practices. This showed that, in September 2018, full extended access was available to 30.8 million registered patients, comprising 55.3% of all registered patients in England. This represents widening of coverage since March 2018, when the previous bi-annual survey found that full extended access was available to 22.6 million, or (39.7%) registered patients. The next bi-annual survey, to be published in April 2019, will show the extent of coverage in March 2019.
The second measure uses the General Practice Forward View Monitoring Survey, which is a monthly return from CCGs that covers all extended access provision, including that delivered via extended access hubs. The results are published via the CCG Improvement and Assessment Framework. The latest data show that, in August 2018, full extended access was available to 40 million registered patients comprising 68% of the registered patient population. This also represents a widening of access relative to March 2018, when full extended access was available to 35.4 million registered patients, comprising 61% of the registered patient population. Data for September and October 2018 are not yet available.