Health board rates doctors surgeries for opening hours
Doctors in Newport and the Gwent valleys have signed up to a grading system so patients can tell how easy it is to get an appointment.
The Welsh government has applauded the move, which will involve 91 GP surgeries in the Aneurin Bevan Health Board area.
Practices will be asked to display certificates.
It rates surgeries on issues ranging from accessibility of appointments to lunchtime openings.
They will be awarded up to five A grades for meeting certain criteria, for example offering their first appointment no later than 08:30 GMT.
Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said it would improve patient care.
The health board is responsible for 639,000 patients.
Of the 91 GP surgeries involved, 26 have scored the maximum rating of five As, four have five Bs and the rest are working on improving access, the health board said.
As well as early opening hours, a ratings are awarded for:
- Opening during lunch time;
- Holding the last routine appointment at 05:50 GMT or later;
- Phone calls being answered by staff, instead of recorded messages, between 08:00 GMT and 06:30 GMT;
- Allowing patients to book an appointment with one call or online.
Making it possible for people to see GPs at the weekend and in the evening was one of Labour's five main pledges at May's assembly election.
First Minister Carwyn Jones has said meeting the policy will come at no extra cost, although the Conservatives have contested the claim.
GPs will be asked to "re-jig" their hours, rather than working longer, Mr Jones has said.
Mrs Griffiths said she "welcomed innovation".
"The new access scheme will, I am sure, lead to an improvement in the continuity and quality of patient care," she said.
"I am also pleased to see that an aspect of the new access scheme seeks to extend routine doctor appointments in the evening which will help to improve the accessibility of GP services, in particular, for working people.
"Improving the accessibility of GP services for working people in the evening is a key Welsh government priority."
Aneurin Bevan assistant medical director Dr Liam Taylor said: "This scheme has already fostered improved arrangements which will benefit patients and I'm sure will also contribute to easing some of the pressure on our incredibly busy hospital emergency departments."
Patients can contact the local health board offices to find out the rating that their surgery has achieved.