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UK to ‘guarantee’ seven-day access to GPs

Published on 30/09/14 at 09:46am
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Under a UK Conservative government everyone would have access to GP care seven days a week as well as a named GP its leader David Cameron has promised.

The UK prime minister has pledged £100m of funding for access pilots to be launched in 2015/16, culminating in a country-wide scheme that will cost £400m over the next five years.

Cameron says: "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 patient’s better access to their doctor."

The plans are part of a new GP contract to be announced later today. In April the government launched a £50m pilot scheme where practices in nine key areas of England were able to bid for money in order to open from 8am to 8pm seven days a week, in addition to offering Skype consultations.

Speaking to the BBC, Cameron says that the plans were not ‘some fairy-tale announcement’ and that the previous pilot scheme had shown real success.

The move have been met with criticism by both Labour and The British Medical Association (BMA) however, with the BMA questioning whether extending opening hours is the best use of already stretched NHS resources.

The government’s promise comes at a time when primary health doctor levels are reaching some of the lowest levels in the NHS’s history, leaving some to question whether the NHS has the means to fulfil the government’s plans.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA’s GP Committee says: “The GP service is under unprecedented strain, and is unable to meet the needs of a growing ageing population and the increasing volume of care moving out of hospitals. GPs are working beyond their capacity, seeing a record 340 million patients every year, up by 40 million compared to 2008. Demand on GP services has far outstripped supply.”

The prime minister argues that the scheme is designed to take pressure off accident and emergency units who have to treat patients that would be better treated elsewhere.

Last week at the Labour party conference Ed Milliband vowed to ‘save and transform’ the NHS –promising an extra £2.5 billion to hire more nurses, GPs and other care workers as well as guarantee that everyone could see a GP within 48 hours.

Cameron has argued that flexibility is more important and that his plans were ‘tried and tested’ to some degree, but the evidence for this has yet to be revealed.

Emily MacKenzie

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