A new study conducted by academics has found that the government push for seven-day NHS services may ultimately be counter-productive.
Researchers at the University of Nottingham conclude that the government policy fundamentally lacks understanding of patients’ needs.
The Conservative government has continually pushed for seven-day access to general practice in particular.
And Prime Minister Theresa May recently claimed that GPs are failing to provide sufficient access.
But researchers at Nottingham University examined the possibility of extending access by offering additional appointments and changing its services to meet patient demands for appointments on the same day, and the findings contradicted the position of the government.
The University of Nottingham’s Centre for Health, Innovation, Leadership and Learning researched the demand for urgent appointments with doctors during weekends, and found that there had been a serious overestimation.
This would seem to match the opinion of many doctors on the subject, with numerous practices claiming that patients simply do not require out of hours surgery.
The report notes that there seems to be a fundamental disconnect between the desires of the government and the reality of care required.
“There is clearly a lack of understanding of patients’ needs and their demand for primary care access. There has been an overestimation of the demand for urgent appointments with GPs at weekends. This has led to an overprovision of weekend appointments. By contrast, there is a lack of appreciation for patients’ demand for same day appointments during the week. More effective tools for understanding the factors that drive patient demand need to be considered.”
The study found that there had been extremely low take-up of urgent care appointments in two CCGs that trialled this new approach.
Patients seemed to appreciate Bank Holiday surgery, taking up appointments in these timeslots at a rate of 34%, but only 18% of possible slots were booked on Sundays.
Dr Paul Widrum, who led the study, concluded that the evidence provided by the research is clear, and there simply does not seem to be the patient demands to support seven-day NHS services.
“People have voted with their feet, especially the group in full or part time employment who have been targeted. They are just not showing up to weekend appointments. It’s highly problematic that we have this evidence – from a pilot funded by the public purse – which is not being taken on board.”