GP opening hours scheme 'to benefit seven million patients'
- 14 April 2014
- From the section Health
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.
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."
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.
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. "