Doctor :: More family doctor services for deprived areas

Patients living in deprived areas should soon find it easier to get a doctor’s appointment following the launch of UK Government drive to find extra GPs and nurses for those towns and cities with the fewest family doctors.

UK Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt revealed the first four areas taking part in a new programme aimed at tackling long-standing inequalities in GP services.

New services expected to open are extra family practices, walk-in centres and minor injuries units. The first areas to benefit will be Hartlepool, County Durham, Ashfield and Great Yarmouth, with other areas also set to join the programme in the coming months. The contracts for the new services will run for an initial five years, with the potential to extend for longer.

The ‘Fairness in Primary Care Procurement’ programme is expected to provide patients with better access to a family doctor and more choice of GP, including flexible opening hours and extended services, such as minor surgery. All local residents will have the choice to access any new services.

New services being planned in each of the four areas include:

– Hartlepool – two general practices and a general practice with urgent care services

– County Durham – an extra general practice

– Ashfield – a new primary care centre and intermediate care service

– Great Yarmouth – an extra general practice

Ms Hewitt’s announcement coincides with publication of a policy review document from the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit that outlines a vision of how public services, including the healthcare, could progress in future. The document argues for policies that tackle social exclusion, expand patient choice and empower citizens to have a greater say on their own care.

For example, the policy review says services could be made more responsive by ensuring that they are accessible at times convenient to their diverse ranges of users. It reveals that nine out of ten attendees at a recent Policy Review Forum said they want public services, such as GP surgeries, that are open some evenings and weekends, even if that means they would sometimes be shut during the working week.

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