DOCTORS’ surgeries have cut their opening hours despite plans to ease pressure on hospitals by GPs treating more patients.
A cut in government fundings means fewer of the district’s GP surgeries are opening on evenings and weekends.
All 40 district surgeries offered extended hours in 2010-11, but latest figures how eight have since cut opening times.
The decline in out-of-hours opening emerged after district NHS bosses launched plans to shift patient care out of hospitals and into GP surgeries.
Wakefield MP Mary Creagh said cuts to opening times at surgeries could lead to longer queues at Pinderfields Hosptal, which has struggled to cope with more patients than expected over the past year.
She said: “If people can’t see a doctor they will end up going to A&E at Pinderfields, meaning bigger queues, longer waits and added pressure on NHS staff.
“I have taken this up with the Primary Care Trust as extended opening hours should be a priority, and they should ensure that all GP surgeries in Wakefield offer evening and weekend appointments like they did two years ago.”
Opening hours were reduced after the government cut the amount it paid GPs to open out of hours from £3.01 per patient to £1.90 last year.
Ms Creagh said this showed the NHS was suffering thanks to government cuts.
Health bosses pointed out that overall opening hours had changed from 9am-5pm to 8am-6.30pm in the past few years.
But Adam Sheppard, assistant clinical chair of NHS Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The figures show a decline in surgeries opening extended hours because government funding rules changed and many GPs, who are independent contractors to the NHS, decided extended opening hours were no longer economic.”
District health bosses said they were investing to make it easier to get same day appointments and consultations over the phone at surgeruies.
They want to make GPs the first point of call for medical help to free up A&E departments for people who need urgent care.