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Cameron reiterates promise of seven day access to GPs

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g5960 (Published 30 September 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5960
  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. 1The BMJ

Everyone in England will be able to see a GP seven days a week between 8 am and 8 pm by 2020 if the Conservative Party is elected next year, the prime minister has pledged. In an announcement at the Conservatives’ conference in Birmingham David Cameron said that £400m (€510m; $650m) would be committed over the next five years to fund the plan nationally.

The initiative is currently being piloted in parts of England after an announcement at last year’s Conservative Party conference,1 which saw an initial £50m committed to give seven day access to 7.5 million patients registered at 1195 practices. Cameron said that additional pilots would be launched in 2015-16, with £100m of funding, and that he expected full coverage by 2020.

The Department of Health for England said that general practices would be able to bid for a share of the £100m next year “by demonstrating new initiatives to improve patient access, in and out of normal working hours.”

Announcing the plans, Cameron said, “People need to be able to see their GP at a time that suits them and their family. That’s why we will ensure everyone can see a GP seven days a week by 2020.

“We will also support thousands more GP practices to stay open longer, giving millions of patients better access to their doctor.”

After the announcement of the initial pilot for the scheme last year, one senior GP who adopted 8 am to 8 pm, seven day working in his practice said that the plan would require an investment of £35 per head of population and would require the government to redistribute up to £2bn of funding from elsewhere in the NHS to primary care.2

Reacting to the latest announcement, the BMA said that the plan ignored the current workforce crisis and pressures facing general practice in 2014. Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the BMA’s General Practitioners Committee, said, “GPs naturally wish to improve access to patients. But this announcement does not address the current reality of what patients and GPs are facing. We need immediate solutions to the extreme pressures that GP practices are facing, with inadequate numbers of GPs and practice staff to manage increasing volume of patients, who are already having to wait too long for care.

“The BMA has already set out a range of solutions to address the immediate access needs of patients. We urge the government to prioritise caring for the needs of patients today, rather than promises for tomorrow.”

Andy Burnham, the Labour Party’s shadow health secretary, said that Labour would reinstate its previous commitment to a GP appointment within 48 hours or a same day consultation with a doctor or nurse, if elected in 2015.

“David Cameron made an almost identical announcement this time last year, but in the 12 months since he has made it harder, not easier, to get a GP appointment,” said Burnham. “After the [last] election David Cameron scrapped Labour’s GP appointment guarantee and cut support for evening and weekend opening. His broken promises on the NHS have caught up with him.”

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5960

References

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