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GP Surgeries to Open 7 Days a Week
So, by 2020 everyone will be able to access a GP practice seven days a week from 8am until 8pm if the Conservatives are returned to power at the next election the Prime Minister promised this week. David Cameron said that he wanted the public to be able to see a GP at a time that ‘suits them and their family’. Mr Cameron promised to protect the NHS for the next Parliament in his last speech to the Conservative Party Conference before the general election next year.
Is it achievable?
In response to the Prime Minister’s speech the BMA said investment is needed to keep up with patient demand. BMA council chair Dr Porter said: ‘The NHS is going through its tightest spending period in 50 years. Even with a protected budget, patient demand and costs are rising faster than investment, which is why the NHS is facing a gap in funding of £30bn by 2020 and services are stretched to breaking point. Frontline staff are under extreme pressure, with unmanageable workloads often preventing them from being able to deliver the high-quality care they want to for their patients.’
What do patients want?
I do think that patients want easier access to a GP at a time that suits them, but I’m not sure they’re fully aware of the pressures this expectation puts on GP Practices in the current climate. There is already a recruitment crisis and extending access will make general practice more overstretched and reduce continuity of care. A Pulse survey in April this year revealed that more than half of GPs believe that the Government’s move towards 7 day GP access will negatively affect the safety of patient care.
In my Practice we already offer extended surgery hours 3 evenings per week, including routine access to a GP or Practice Nurse, and there’s no doubt that these appointments are popular. However, whilst I am not averse to extending GP Practice opening hours it would be unrealistic for patients to expect the same routine services seven days a week from 8am until 8pm. Different types of services are needed at different times and more work needs to be done around patient demand to ensure the right capacity is put into the right place and with the right support and financial investment from the government in order to implement this.