A rating system for patient access to GP practices has gone live at a Welsh health board and the head of NHS Wales wants to see it rolled out across the principality.

The ‘A’ is for Access scheme at the Aneurin Bevan Health Board is a set of locally agreed standards for five key access services provided by surgires, which are awarded an ‘A’ for each one they meet.

The standards look at: does the practice open on or before 8am with a first appointment at 8.30am or earlier; is it open during lunch; is the last doctor appointment at 5.50pm or later; is telephone access directly to a member of staff available from 8.00am – 6.30pm; and can patients can book an appointment during one telephone call.

The scheme has been developed in partnership with local GPs and the Aneurin Bevan Community Health Council and is the first of its kind to be launched in Wales.

All 91 practices across the health board have signed up to the scheme, with 26 achieving the maximum five ‘A’ rating.

From 3 January 2012, practices have been asked to display a certificate which clearly shows their rating.

Not all practices were able to meet the essential qualifying requirements for the ‘A’ scheme as they had at least one half-day closure.

Access standards for these surgeries are still reported against the same list of standards, but these surgeries are given ‘B’ ratings. Four practices have five ‘B’ ratings so far.

In an interview with Wales Online, NHS Wales chief executive, David Sissling, said that every health board should offer the ‘A’ is for Access scheme or develop their own version.

“It’s taking information about doctors and making it publicly available – we need to do more of that,” he said.

Cathy O’Sullivan, of Aneurin Bevan Community Health Council, said good accessibility was essential to offering a good GP service.

“This award will give welcome recognition to those practices trying hard to be available to their patients and give others something to aspire to,” she said.