PATIENTS in Lancashire have missed out on government money to fund extended opening hours for GP surgeries.
Across England more than seven million patients will benefit from the new measures, in which surgeries will offer access to GPs outside normal hours and by methods including phone, email and Skype.
Practices in Rossendale and Hyndburn had applied to be part of the scheme, but when the successful bids were announced yesterday, none in the East of the county had made the list.
Prime Minister David Cameron announced the £50m GP Access Fund in October - and has now said that 1,147 practices will take part.
Most East Lancashire practices do offer some extended opening outside the core hours of 8am until 6.30pm Monday to Friday, but this currently averages at just three hours per week for a single practice.
But Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said that even if the East Lancashire practices had received the government cash, it would not have solved staffing problems faced by general practices.
Health chief bosses have already stressed the need to start diverting NHS funds away from hospitals and into primary care.
Russ McLean said: “Patients aren’t as stupid as the government seems to think they are.
“The £50 million that they’re giving is a drop in the ocean as to what’s needed in primary care. We need a massive investment of money to take on more GPs.
“GPs are leaving in their droves, they’re opting for early retirement because they can’t cope with the stress and the strain. GPs are the first point of call for patients. And unless there’s massive investment then I’m afraid that no amount of money will make any difference.”
A spokesman for East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Two surgeries applied but were not successful.”