GP opening hours scheme 'to benefit seven million patients'

A close-up shot of a doctor writing a prescription The government originally expected half a million patients to be affected

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New opening hours for some GP surgeries in England will benefit more than seven million patients, far more than originally planned, David Cameron says.

The prime minister announced the £50m GP Access Fund in October - and he now says a "great response" from surgeries means 1,147 will take part.

He says surgeries will offer access to GPs outside normal hours and by methods including phone, email and Skype.

Labour said it had got "much harder" to see a GP under the current government.

Start Quote

For the vast majority who are outside of this scheme, things will carry on getting worse”

End Quote Andy Burnham Shadow health secretary

The GP Access Fund is intended to make it possible for people to see their GP in evenings or weekends, or contact them remotely for convenience.

A Department of Health spokesman said it originally estimated half a million people would benefit from the £50m pot, but high levels of interest had meant more surgeries were included.

Mr Cameron said: "There has been a great response from doctors, with lots of innovative ideas, and we will now see over seven million patients given weekend and evening opening hours, alongside more access to their family doctor on the phone, via email or even Skype.

"This is an important step and good news for patients."

David Cameron David Cameron said doctors had contributed "lots of innovative ideas"

The prime minister also announced plans to improve care services for elderly people.

About 800,000 people over the age of 75 and those with more serious health complaints would get tailored care, co-ordinated by just one local GP, he said.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the move was "one of the biggest changes that we need to make in our NHS".

"Many doctors already give great care but I want to make sure this is completely co-ordinated to head off problems and keep people from going to hospital unnecessarily," he said.

'Getting worse'

Your emails

David Jackson, in Norfolk, says:

"There's a shortage of GPs, especially in rural places, this won't help.

My local surgery only has one GP, the rest are locums. It takes about seven to 10 days to get an appointment.

The solution should be two-pronged; attract more GPs and then extend surgery open hours."

Metia Bethell, in Staffordshire:

"People will definitely benefit from this.

My mother-in-law recently had shingles and we could not get a doctor's appointment. We had to take her to the local A&E in the end.

The only way we could get an appointment was to physically go to the surgery and queue up."

But shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "People know from their own experience that it has got much harder to get a GP appointment under David Cameron."

He said Mr Cameron had "removed Labour's guarantee of an appointment within 48 hours" and "cut the money for later opening hours".

"For the vast majority who are outside of this scheme, things will carry on getting worse and they are being told to expect to wait a week for a GP appointment," Mr Burnham said.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association's General Practice Committee, said the changes must be "properly supported".

"The government must take further action so that community, social and urgent care work in tandem to deliver truly holistic care to patients," he said.

"Ministers must also deliver on their commitment to increase resources in the community so that there are more GPs, nurses and other health and social care services to provide co-ordinated care to the escalating number of patients who need care closer to home. "


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  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    To those who think my job is easy. I saw 38 patients today. I told 2 they had a terminal illness. One elderly patient arrived confused & septic & required resuscitation. The rest had a breadth of medical problems that needed fixing. I removed a melanoma. I helped a suicidal young girl see reality. Think you can do it? Get off your @&$/ & do the 10 years training.

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    Our GP surgery is only open 4.5 days a week and are open 9 am to 6 pm, 1/2 day Thursday. It's a commuter town 20 miles outside London (think Lakeside Shopping Centre for location), so it is virtually impossible to see the GP if you work more than a couple of miles away.. There is only 1 surgery for the whole of the town and if you want to see a particular doctor you can wait upwards of a month.

  • rate this

    Comment number 350.

    I work 9-5, Mon-Fri, I've been desperately trying to call for a doctor's appointment since last Thursday I'm on hold from 8am for half an hour. Each time I've called they say 'no appointments are available after 5pm today, call tomorrow'. It's getting to the point now where I will have to go to A&E. They don't even have the option to book for an appointment on another day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    I'm torn about this. While I think this will provide a great service to many people, the GPs will be working longer and longer hours, which could have negative health effects on the GPs themselves. They work hard enough as it is. I think more thought needs to go into this to make sure the GPs can reconcile this new service with their private/family lives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    I'm a GP,and it saddens me to see how people feel about things.I think/hope many GP's work very hard and at the root of things do actually care for their patients.As a profession,we are far from perfect.
    The NHS was never designed to deal with many minor/social/selfinflicted issues that we deal with that need no 'treatment' or are untreatable.That's where some pressure of numbers comes from.


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