Poor access to general practice services has been attributed to increasing pressure on the health system more widely and low satisfaction among patients. Recent initiatives in England have sought to expand access by the provision of appointments in the evening and at weekends. Services are provided using a hub model. NHS national targets mandate extended opening hours as a mechanism for increasing access to primary care, based on the assumption that unmet need is caused by a lack of appointments at the right time. However, research has shown that other factors affect access to healthcare and it may not simply be appointment availability that limits an individual’s ability to access general practice services.
To determine whether distance and deprivation impact on the uptake of extended hours GP services that use a hub practice model.
We linked a dataset (N = 25,408) concerning extended access appointments covering 158 general practice surgeries in four Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to the GPPS survey, deprivation statistics and primary care registration data. We used negative binomial regression to estimate associations between distance and deprivation on the uptake of extended hours GP services in the Greater Manchester City Region. Distance was defined as a straight line between the extended hours provider location and the patient’s home practice, the English Indices of Multiple Deprivation were used to determine area deprivation based upon the home practice, and familiarity was defined as whether the patient’s home practice provided an extended hours service.
The number of uses of the extended hours service at a GP practice level was associated with distance. After allowing for distance, the number of uses of the service for hub practices was higher than for non-hub practices. Deprivation was not associated with rates of use.
The results indicate geographic inequity in the extended hours service. There may be many patients with unmet need for whom the extension of hours via a hub and spoke model does not address barriers to access. Findings may help to inform the choice of hub practices when designing an extended access service. Providers should consider initiatives to improve access for those patients located in practices furthest away from hub practices. This is particularly of importance in the context of closing health inequality gaps.