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 153.

    Ah, yet another ill thought out wheeze for conference.

    GPs are already trying to reorganise healthcare via CCGs (hot on the heels of X reorganisations, where X is a very big number).
    Their contract is up for negotiation.
    This govt has increasd their wkload so they have to work harder for less.
    How on earth could they do this without more resources & without detriment to current services?

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    My God don't tell me they've managed to say something without tagging 'hard working people' on at the start of it, in the middle of it or at the end of it. If I hear it again I think I'll spontaneously combust. I don't think the GPs are just going to roll over and agree to this. Might require another renegotiation of terms and salary rise on the deal they got from the previous incumbents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    @137 i think you'll generally find that people don't bother making the appointment and will take themselves to the local A & E department and waste their time instead.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    So is this Cameron's big idea for this week? Big society seems to have come a cropper what with the Tories so obviously focusing any largese they have on the rich sector of society. This is like John Major and his cone war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    FINALLY!!! After literally decades of these people having the easy life. We want to be seen by a GP, we need to take time off work.

    A medical student at the time (Anaesthetist now) once told me, if you care about people you get a job as a doctor in a hospital.

    If you care about money you become a GP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    101. solidgold - "Beware tory 'promises'"

    Are they as robust as Lib/Dem (tuition fees) and Labour (no increase in BR tax - NI instead)?

    Beware politicians promises!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    @106 GP Partner

    Disheartened by dissatisfied patients' comments? Poor lamb, would some more money help?

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    Whether GPs working more flexible hours is the answer I don't know but recently my Mum was in absolute agony for weeks, over that period of time she had 3 GPs from her own surgery called out and all they gave her were painkillers when she needed to be in hospital. None of them put 2 and 2 together and got her in hospital. I doubt that out of hours GPs would solve this problem. Disgraceful!

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    Would just be nice to actually get an appointment when you are actually ill and not make it week(s) in advance.
    When I do get an appointment the waiting room is always full of the same people. Especially old people, there should be better support for them.
    And pharmacies should be able to help treat 'simpler' issues and advise treatments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    It still won't be easy to make an appointment.
    " I'm ever so sorry you have to ring the appointments number between 8 and 8.30 in the morning"

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    Opening hours reflect the 1960's rather than today. Receptionists are often unfriendly (poor customer service). And when you get an appointment, the surgery is full of people who don't need to be there. So, there is a cultural and a demand-side problem (we've become soft). Opening hours do need to be more 21st century. And WE need to stop running to A&E and the doctors every time we get a sniffle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    115. Meadfoot

    Your not the only one who has trained and worked hard ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    I fail to understand why surgeries c'ant open 7:30-11 then 3:30-8:00. The number of hours lost by working people having to take time off to visit the doctors is ridiculous, as the article says, the most frequent attenders are the elderly and children who aren't busy any time and a bonus would be that the GP could make house calls during the day (Oh, and NO extra costs!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    My excellent GP has recently retired at 60 - why?. Because in his words he joined the medical profession to practice medicine not to be an accountant and HR manager. The fact is that Cameron's creeping privatisation and top down meddling of the NHS means doctors now have to do ANYTHING BUT practise the skills that they have!. The Tories merely see the NHS as a cash cow for Companies like Circle

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    About time the doctors surgery's were open to suit those that work during the day and not just for lone parents ,pensioners and the unemployed.
    Can I recoup all the lost wages I have had to lose over the years because the hard working people of this country are treated as the under dog and second class and no thought was given to ensuring they got the same service as everyone else

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    96. knackered

    I think you will find that average dentists, lawyers, vets are generally paid a lot less than average GPs now.

    There is a shortage of GPs because so many can afford to work part-time and still live a reasonable lifestyle

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    If you have just typed, "I rarely bother because I can't get an appointment", or "i'm better by the time I get an appointment" Or similar. Take a think about that and wonder if it would have been a waste of time you going in the first place. How are you now? Still alive I assume???? Not missing any limbs?

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Simple solution - start invoicing patients £10 for missing appointments without good reason and refuse access to the GP until it's paid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    And its another stupid idea from the Boy's Without a Clue,
    now we will have over worked doctors, tired, stressed out, depressed, and making dangerous mistakes in diagnosing patient's and know doubt leading to patient's deaths, Way to Go Cameron and the Government without a Clue when it comes to patients lives.
    A Doctor does not just do surgery they do hospitals care home's home visits, plus more

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Proposing seven day GP care is playing to the Tory gallery in much the same way that Eric Pickles did by making a fuss about reinstating weekly bin collections. In the end people didn't want it.

    GP care is not generally time critical, few issues found on a Saturday can't wait until Monday to be addressed. For those that can't wait there are drop in centres and A&E. Fund them properly.


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