Are fewer GP surgeries offering extended hours?

10 April 2015

The parties are at odds over extended hours at GP surgeries. We've examined Labour's figures and the responses from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

"Some 600 fewer GP surgeries across England are open in the evening and at weekends compared to the time of the last election, new figures today show." - Labour Party press release, 7th April 2015

The published data is not sufficient for this claim to be made.

Labour are comparing statistics from 2009 on practices offering extended opening hours with HSCIC experimental statistics on NHS payments to GP practices in 2013/14, which were released in February 2015.

First, the figures are no longer produced in the same way as in 2009, meaning they might not be precisely comparable.  For example, the HSCIC told us that the 2013/14 figures include health centres. It isn't clear whether the 2009 data does.

Second, the HSCIC also told us the more recent figures may not include all extended hours services.

The Conservative Party has criticised the figures on the grounds that they don't take the government's "Challenge Fund" into account:

"Labour do not take into account our GP access fund — which is helping millions of patients. […] early evidence shows this has helped reduce A&E attendances, and relieve pressure on GP surgeries" - Conservative Party press release

And the complaint was shared by the Liberal Democrats.

It's true that Labour's figures are for the 2013/14 financial year, before the fund became available. But those are the latest annual figures.

Evidence on the fund's performance isn't yet available. The 'early evidence' referred to by the Conservatives is based on figures provided by NHS England to Pulse in February 2015. A full analysis of the figures wasn't available, with NHS England telling Pulse there was "insufficient data to measure the success of the scheme".  They also said that they "needed more time to gather the evidence to be able to 'demonstrate success'," although they added that early feedback on reducing A&E services was "encouraging".

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