Increasing GP opening hours would speed urgent referral to specialist care of patients with a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or minor stroke.
This could in turn prevent over 500 recurrent strokes a year in England alone, according to a study published on bmj.com. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that high-risk patients must be seen within 24 hours of symptom onset.
Dr Daniel Lasserson and colleagues from the University of Oxford assessed the potential impact on stroke prevention of increasing primary care opening hours.
A centre open seven days a week from 8am to 8pm would have offered cover to 73 patients who waited until surgery opening hours to call their GP, reducing delay from 50.1 hours to 4.0 hours, and increasing those calling within 24 hours from 34% to 68%.
In an accompanying editorial, Moyez Jiwa, from the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute in Perth, and Andrew Knight, from the University of Sydney, say that the findings confirm that delay in access to health services has serious consequences.
But they suggest that public health messages alerting patients with symptoms of TIA to the need for emergency care would be of more benefit than simply extending general practice opening hours.