A shake-up of the way GP services are provided could be on the way in Bradford following a £100,000 trial of extended opening hours over the festive period and January weekends.

The move was possible because of extra money pumped in by NHS England, but there were also some costs for the Bradford City Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which buys in the services used by GP practices.

Results of the trial suggest that many of those who attended a GP appointment during those periods would otherwise have gone to accident or emergency or sought help via the NHS 111 telephone number.

Because that was avoided, it is believed there was less pressure on those elements of the health service, which are traditionally very busy. However, a financial assessment shows there were extra costs for the CCG.

CCG chief officer Helen Hirst said: “The more we do in primary care, the less we need acute services.”

She acknowledged the cost implications of providing extended access through GP surgeries.

“How do we square that circle? We don’t have money to throw at it,” she said. “We have to get primary care working in a more efficient way. We will have to put money in, to enable primary care to change and withdraw the money when it has changed,” she said.

It is expected there will be further developments with that process later in the year.

A report on the extended openings to the CCG’s governors shows 20 of the city’s GP surgeries took part. NHS England contributed £29,317, though the total cost was £108,960.

During the December openings, 58 per cent of appointments were booked out, though six per cent of patients failed to attend. During January, 61 per cent of appointments were booked, though again six per cent of patients did not turn up.

Those who did attend were questioned and over Christmas 60 per cent said they would have used an urgent care service instead, had the practice not been open.

In January, the figure was 39 per cent who would have looked elsewhere for treatment.

“When looking at the A&E figures for January, the relatively low numbers at Bradford, and the that the four hour standard was met, may indicate that it did have a positive impact,” states the report. The four hour standard is the timespan in which patients attending A&E should expect to receive medical attention.