Cameron promises more flexible GP hours


David Cameron: ''This is about getting services right''

David Cameron says he wants to offer more patients the chance to visit a GP in the evening or at weekends.

Under a scheme to be piloted in nine areas of England, surgeries will be able to bid for funding to open from 8am to 8pm seven days a week.

The prime minister said the £50m project would mean doctors "fit in with work and family life".

Mr Cameron has also denied his plan for a budget surplus in the next Parliament will lead to further spending cuts.

The prime minister said the 2008 banking crisis had brought the UK economy "to the brink" and it would be irresponsible not to put money aside for a "rainy day" when the economy improved.

In other developments on the penultimate day of the Conservative Party's annual conference in Manchester:

  • Mr Cameron said he would welcome Boris Johnson back to Parliament while the Mayor of London has urged the Tories to go "flat out" for victory in 2015.
  • The proposed marriage tax break is "very much a first step" to recognising the institution in the tax system, Mr Cameron said
  • The prime minister said he "understood" Ed Miliband's reaction to an article in the Daily Mail about his father and newspapers and politicians should show "judgement" about press limits
  • Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith outlined plans to force the jobless to attend 9-5 classes at job centres
  • Culture Secretary Maria Miller says a new £10m fund will be set up to mark UK historic events, such as forthcoming anniversaries of the Magna Carta and the Battle of Waterloo

Manchester is already piloting an extended-hours scheme for GPs, with family doctors grouping together to offer extra care, in what is being billed as an attempt to prevent "unnecessary" visits to hospital A&E wards.

'Skype appointments'

The wider scheme will see practices applying for a share of a £50m "Challenge Fund", with surgeries becoming "pioneers" in each of nine regions, starting in 2014/15.

Extended opening hours for GPs. Sounds familiar? It should.

The Labour government encouraged practices to open later in the evening and on weekends - offering them extra money if they did so.

Most GPs gave it a go. But the problem was that in many places there was just not the demand and so the funding was reduced and hours cut.

There are still plenty of surgeries that offer out-of-hours appointments, particularly in large urban areas.

But the truth is that the people who are most likely to make use of the service - those of working age - are the least likely to need a GP.

Whereas, the elderly and children who are the most frequent users tend not to have a problem attending appointments during regular hours.

Mr Cameron is also promising more "flexible access", including email, Skype and telephone consultations for patients who prefer this to face-to-face contact.

He told the BBC: "Many hard working people find it difficult to take time off to get that GP appointment, so having these pilot schemes... is, I think, a very positive step forward.

"It also links to the problems we have seen in our accident and emergency departments because the number of people going to A&E departments is up by four million since the changes to the GP contract that Labour put in in 2004.

"What we need to do is enable the right people with the right ailments, as it were, to either go to a GP or to accident and emergency."

'24/7 society'

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "We live in a 24/7 society, and we need GPs to find new ways of working so they can offer appointments at times that suit hard-working people."

Jeremy Hunt: "We need to rediscover the ideal of family doctors"

The Royal College of GPs said doctors were keen to do more, but were already struggling with their workload.

"We now need the government to go much further and give general practice its fair share of the NHS budget so that GPs can deliver more care and better access to services for their patients in the community," it said.

But Labour said an extended opening scheme introduced by the last government had been scrapped.

"Under the Tories, hundreds of GP surgeries are shutting their doors earlier," said its health spokesman Andy Burnham.

"Patients are also finding it harder to get appointments, and turning to A&E instead, after he removed Labour's guarantee of an appointment within 48 hours."

In his speech to conference, Mr Hunt also pledged to legislate to give the Care Quality Commission statutory independence from government.

This would end "political meddling" and ensure the interests of patients were always put first, he said.

'No splurge'

The Conservatives say they would continue the coalition's policy of fiscal restraint throughout the next parliament - if they form the next government - with the aim of achieving a budget surplus.

Mr Cameron said this would require tough decisions for the next six or seven years but did not "necessarily mean" there would have to be more cuts on top of those announced up to 2016.

"What it definitely means once those years are over you cannot sort of plan another spending splurge. We are going to have to be responsible in our country for very many, many years into the future."

The government was right to focus on containing spending, he added.

"I don't think you tax your way to a strong recovery and we need to recognise that hard working people need more money in their pockets to spend as they choose."

The prime minister also insisted that the government would find the money to freeze fuel duty until 2015, describing help for motorists as a "real priority".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Since the out of hours service was introduced - the GP service has not been the same, and until GPs add a few more doctors to each practice and set up 24 hour cover once more - it won't be a full service in my eyes. As an ex- psychiatric nurse good medical care is about communication and more importantly consistency, know who your patients are - something that the NHS have failed to do. Act now!

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    I attended a walk in centre just to have a dressing changed. Well it took my then GP almost two years to get my notes back as they were requested automatically by the centre and then disappeared into the either. The best part of this story was they didn't even change the dressing I was sent to a local A&E as the nurse wasn't available........

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Great, if this isn't just another hollow promise.

    It's nigh-on impossible to get the receptionists to give you an appointment in the same month, let alone outside working hours.

    About time the NHS was accessible beyond Monday to Friday 9-5.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Another crap, unworkable idea from an out of touch, incompetent, utterly clueless dog of a Tory led Coalition...

    ...there's already a shortage of GPs...

    ...if you get them to work some evenings/weekends then they'll be less appointments during week days...

    ...& there will still be a shortage of GPs...

    ...quite possibly an exaggerated shortage due to anti social hours........

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Imagine if ended government paid GP visits.
    Finally, GPs would be able to better cater to their patients' demands, as the market reflects customer's demands, rather than the demands of central planners and unions.

    A GP visit is as inevitable as an oil change. You don't charge oil change on car insurance, and the squeaky wheel always gets the oil cheaply.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Flexible worker = 0 hrs contracts
    Welcome to the team!

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Have more triage nurses - they do just as much for a fraction of the cost.
    GPs refer you to a specialist who might know what they are on about, or simply prescribe some cough mixture or have a bit of a chat.
    Impose taxes on private healthcare operators who poach NHS staff or get them to moonlight. No wonder waiting times are so long, the people you want to see are only doing half a job

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Some years ago, GPs were given a massive salary rise in return for working longer and more flexible hours. That didn't happen. Now they want another massive funding increase to work longer and more flexible hours? My local surgery has a list of numbers who did not attend appointments. That's probably because they recovered or were admitted to hospital before their distant appointment came round.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    I was wondering who the tories were going to pick on today. GPs, I thought they were the tory's friends? They'll have to work longer hours now. No doubt we'll get a speech from our illustrious leader about the NHS is safe in tory hands and there’ll be no privatisation etc. You can just see it now. Never smile at a crocodile

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    The prime minister said the 2008 banking crisis had brought the UK economy "to the brink" and still they have done nothing about it except contest the issue of bankers bonuses with the EU. Press regulation too has bee conveniently ignored. I wish he would stop patronising the "hardworking people", cut the clichés and soundbites and address the things that really matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Yeah yeah. Cameron must think we're all stupid.

    If he can do this after re-election (assuming the electorate are dumb enough to re-elect the Tories, and the past shows they are) why haven't they done it already?!

    Just another load of vote grabbing rhetoric.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    This GP provision already existed in the form of GP Walk in centres, which were scraped under the crazy NHS refom bill

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    It's about time! Getting an appointment that suits me is a challange to say the least, especially for nurse appointments. GPs and their staff need to understand that we pay their wages - they must work hours to suit us - not their private lives.

    Now, if we can just get town centres to do the same!


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