PMPrime Minister David Cameron has unveiled plans to allow more patients the chance to visit a GP in the evening or at weekends at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.

Under a scheme to be piloted in nine areas of England, surgeries will be able to bid for funding to open from 8am to 8pm seven days a week. 

Speaking yesterday [30 Sept] the prime minister said the £50m project would mean doctors "fit in with work and family life".

Mr Cameron's announcement on GP hours came on the penultimate day of party in Manchester where a pilot scheme is already underway in which GPs are grouping together to offer extra care. 

More flexible access to GPs
The wider scheme will see practices applying for a share of a £50m "Challenge Fund", with surgeries becoming "pioneers" in each of nine regions, starting in 2014/15. 

The PM also pledged to provide more "flexible access", including email, Skype and telephone consultations for patients who prefer this to face-to-face contact. 

He said: "Many hard working people find it difficult to take time off to get that GP appointment, so having these pilot schemes... is, I think, a very positive step forward. 

"It also links to the problems we have seen in our accident and emergency departments because the number of people going to A&E departments is up by four million since the changes to the GP contract that Labour put in in 2004.

"What we need to do is enable the right people with the right ailments, as it were, to either go to a GP or to accident and emergency."

Responding to the announcement, the Royal College of GPs said doctors were "keen to do more, but [many are] already struggling with their workload". 

Yet Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt added: "We live in a 24/7 society, and we need GPs to find new ways of working so they can offer appointments at times that suit hard-working people. 

"Cutting-edge GP practices here in Manchester are leading the way, and we want many more patients across the country to benefit."