HEALTH bosses in Bolton have said that their number one priority is to improve patient access to doctors — despite missing out on a share of the government's £50 million handout.

Prime minister David Cameron announced yesterday that more than 7.5 million people in England will be offered increased access to their GP services through extended opening times and new consultation methods using video-phone services, email and phone.

Practices in Bolton will not be included in the £50 million GP Access Fund scheme — following an unsuccessful application — but Bolton health boss Dr Stephen Liversedge said the group would be monitoring the results closely.

Dr Liversedge, the clinical director for primary care and health improvement for Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “It will be very interesting to discover the benefits of extending opening hours in these national pilots.

“They will undoubtedly add convenience for patients, but questions remain over whether they will reduce demand on our hospitals and improve the care of ageing populations.

"We will watch the results of the pilots closely and continue to do the best for Bolton people.

“It is Bolton CCG’s number one priority this year to improve access to GP services for Bolton.

"However it isn’t affordable for every practice in Bolton to open for longer every day.

“If we extend opening hours across Bolton, we will have less money to spend on other services such as preventative care for people with serious long-term conditions.

“We do need to think differently about how GP services can meet the needs of working people and those with the greatest needs.”

Bolton CCG hopes to improve access to GP services from 8am to 6.30pm, ensuring those who need urgent advice or treatment from a nurse or GP get treatment the same day.