Intended for healthcare professionals


Cameron announces plan for seven day access to GPs

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 01 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5949
  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. 1BMJ

The prime minister has set out plans for patients in England to be able to see a GP any day of the week and in evenings.

The move is intended to make it easier for people to see their GP from 8 am to 8 pm, seven days a week. The extended hours will be piloted in nine areas, which will also trial other new services designed to increase convenience for patients, including greater use of consultations by email, telephone, and internet videoconferencing.

Launching the policy at the Conservative Party’s conference this week, David Cameron said that the government would put £50m (€60m; $80m) into the pilot scheme, to be shared among the nine “pioneer” sites, which cover half a million patients.

The government said that the approach was already being successfully piloted in six general practices in Manchester. It said that further pilots would begin in April 2014, with a view to later extending the scheme across the country.

The policy will form part of the government’s wider plan to improve care outside hospitals and to reduce pressure on secondary care.1

The BMA said that it was open to discussing new ways of working to benefit patients but that rolling out the policy nationally would require major investment in additional GPs, staff, and resources.

The move echoes efforts by the last Labour government to improve access to GPs, which included targets for practices to open in evenings and at weekends­—with additional funding for those that did—and new primary care centres opening 8 am to 8 pm, seven days a week. However, many of these centres, termed “Darzi clinics” after their architect, the former Labour health minister Ara Darzi, were forced to close after proving too expensive to run.2 Furthermore the number of practices opening outside normal surgery hours fell after the previous Conservative health secretary, Andrew Lansley, stopped monitoring the target.3 4

Launching the policy, Cameron, said, “Millions of people find it hard to get an appointment to see their GP at a time that fits in with their work and family life. We want to support GPs to modernise their services so they can see patients from 8 am to 8 pm, seven days a week.”

The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said, “We live in a 24/7 society, and we need GPs to find new ways of working so they can offer appointments at times that suit hardworking people.”

Steve Field, the Care Quality Commission’s chief inspector for general practice, also welcomed the move, adding, “I want to see brilliant access to GP services for patients across the country and will be assessing this in each practice I inspect.”

Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the BMA’s General Practitioners Committee, said that the committee was open to discussing the plans and said that many practices already offered extended opening hours.

But he added, “Without extra GPs the existing workforce will have to be stretched over seven days, meaning potentially reduced services during the week.

“It will also require additional resources and investment in support and diagnostic staff such as district nurses and access to community care so GPs can meaningfully provide a full service across the week, and it remains to be seen if the money set aside will be enough to deliver this.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5949