A DECISION is due of out Whitehall tomorrow (Thursday) that could change the function of health care in the county.

Herefordshire has been shortlisted to trial seven day a week GP surgeries with all 24 practices in the county signed up to the plan.

If approved, the plan sees surgeries open 8am-8pm seven days a week and sharing patient data.

The bid has been lead by practice development consortium Taurus Healthcare.

Graeme Cleland, Taurus managing director, said the unity inherent in the Herefordshire bid - with all primary care providers signed up - was promising pitch.

Nearly 300 GP practices across the country submitted expressions of interest to test new ways of improving access to general practice and innovative approaches to providing primary care services.

Backed by the £50 million Primary Care Challenge Fund, the initiative will support at least nine pilot projects.

The Herefordshire bid - also backed by the Health and Wellbeing Board - has made the final shortlist of 80.

Delivery of the scheme, however, will only partially address issues over access to primary care, and talks are already underway with the Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (HCCG) and Wye Valley NHS Trust as to where access was proving to be of concern.

Funding for  the programme is non-recurrent so the core offer of the county bid is seven day opening with all other aspects were pilots that will report within the year and provide commissioners with the opportunity to recommission.

Options also arise as contracts for the Herefordshire GP Access Centre and the Out of Hours service come up for renewal. Integrated GP services could be put in place instead, and some of the services now offered would no longer be needed and funding could be released.

Paul Deneen, chairman of Healthwatch Herefordshire, said the creation of a "holistic, joined up approach" to primary care, with seven day surgery openings of surgeries, would make a "significant difference" to patients, with the sharing of data between practices a "very important aspect of this process".

Currently patients’ health records are not available outside individual practices.

On April 1 records will be made available to approved, local healthcare providers through data sharing agreements between individual practices and 3rd party organisations.

All staff accessing these records will have appropriate training and accreditation.

Any sharing needs patient consent - except in and emergency - and every patient has the right to opt out.

See Opinion in tomorrow's Hereford Times