NEARLY 200,000 patients in Bury will benefit from longer surgery hours as part of a £2.8m “tonic” for GPs.

From the late summer, 30 practices will be part of the Early GP project — opening from 8am to 8pm on weekdays and from 8am to 6pm at weekends.

The move will create an additional 150,000 appointments a year, proving a major boost to working people and schoolchildren who might struggle to attend appointments during the day.

Patients will also be able to use a new Smartphone app to order prescriptions and book appointments direct.

Bury was the only area in Greater Manchester to receive the funding for the pilot scheme, from the £50 million Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund.

It was among 20 GP collaborations successful in their bids to help transform access to GP services and improve “patient experience”, from more than 250 “expressions of interest” nationwide.

Among the other ideas to be trialled are better use of telecare and health apps, access to appointments through e-mail, and Skype and greater flexibility with face-to-face access.

Rob Bellingham, commissioning director for NHS England (Greater Manchester), said: “We would like to congratulate GPs in Bury for an innovative scheme that will make such a difference to the lives of the patients they serve.

“Improving access to GPs is imperative to prevent health problems storing up and to avoid pressure on our hospitals.

“I look forward to seeing the results of this exciting scheme and how it transforms healthcare in Bury.”

Dr Simon De Vial, Bury GP Federation chairman, said: “This offers us an exciting opportunity to work together as GPs in the town to put people’s health services at the top of the ladder, ensuring that they have access to what we hope will be the future pattern of services.

“This is a huge programme of work over the coming 12 months but we are excited by the challenge.”

Bury GP Federation chief executive, Michelle Armstrong, said: “It will be easier for people who work and for parents of children at school to access services.”

Stuart North, chief officer for NHS Bury Clinical Commissioning Group said: “The ultimate aim is to make services more responsive and accessible whilst reducing the number of trips to A&E for conditions which aren’t an emergency by increasing the number of available appointments.

“Bury GP Federation’s bid, which was supported by the CCG, was put together with enthusiasm and innovation, including looking to technology to make accessing GP services as easy as possible.”

Improved access to GPs and care services could benefit up to 195,000 patients, say health officials.