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 213.

    money is your obession, you have little idea about nhs salaries. I trained as a doctor because I'm a compassionate and caring person - I am an honest professional,I work hard for my patients and make a valuable contribution to society.I don't expect constant unfounded abuse for this.I have spent many years working hours for free, all I expect is decisions based on facts not political soundbites

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    Brilliant !

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    Agree that this is a good idea - it's impossible to get an appointment, and it's difficult to take time of work (especially on short term contracts, where every hour off is noted). However, I don't think it will sort out the problems in A&E.
    Many people go there because they either are not or cannot register with a GP, or don't understand the health care system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    Cameron is probably just counting the number of working hours lost to people taking time off to visit their GP, instead of keeping their noses to the grindstone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    £100,000 of taxpayers' money for doing 9-5s five days a week prescribing people cough syrup - GPs should be in at the weekends too and work much longer hours.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    The NHS is a Ponzi scheme. It will end, as all frauds do, and typically quickly too - as all frauds typically do.

    We can either
    1) Choose how we transition out of it, dictating how this happens; Or
    2) Suffer a complete collapse of the system, and the havoc that will wreak.

    1. Is politically unpopular, everyone likes to vote for a 'free lunch'.
    2. Is most likely, and I fear for the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    I see, so this would help 'hard working people'. That's good, and it would also help me and many others with disabilities who are no longer able to work and find it very difficult to even get to the doctors surgery. Do we count too? Or is it survival of the fittest these days. Make the most of it while your health holds out with this government ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    Before these GPs decided to go to medical school (at great expense to the taxpayer) did they not realise that many "Hardworking People" work at weekends and get ill at weekends?

    Arrogant, out of touch elitists with an unhealthy sense of entitlement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    Expect everything, it's the Tory Conference and an election round the corner.

    These polocies, why not last year why now, who rattled their cages then, the Parrot or the Downing Street cat?

    Everyone should work longer hours, longer except our politicians who want to work for less with pay rises.

    Doctors are human too and need rest just like you and me.... just like our politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    Clearly extended opening hours is necessary. Just a shame the service once you get there is so patchy.

    I think it's time to ditch the NHS and just have the government directly subsidising healthcare, allowing the free markets to provide the increase in capacity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    Another load of sanctimonious clap trap from Dave.
    I'm getting sick & tired of hearing every comment on employment being punctuated with "hardworking people". Is it meant to make all those unemployed feel guilty about having to claim benefits even if you have contributed into the system for 40 odd years?
    We know you are desperate to get re-elected in 2015 Dave but I think you will end up jobless

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    My husband is a full-time GP. As "96. knackered" said there is a national shortage of GP's of 8,000. If it's such a great job why are not more Doctors becoming GP's?

    -Possibly because at More than Double the Cost Per GP of their German Spanish or French Counterparts and Double the Pay of NHS employed Hospital Registrars we can't afford to pay for more of them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    Good idea.

    No doubt there will be lots of daft reasons given here as to why it isn't but they won't hold water. Working people get ill, they don't want to see doctors during their work hours.

    Most practices have many doctors who stagger their work in shifts anyway.

    So how would it hurt to have your days off as, say, Sunday/Monday and have a Sat surgery? And rotate that among Drs in the practice

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    They're over-worked because of all the nonsense patients who come in and waste their time because they've caught a cold.

    The NHS is a brilliant idea but like anything that's free it opens it to abuse by the public. What they should do is come up with a way of penalising time-wasters so those who genuinely need help get seen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    A big mistake made years ago gave GPs an easier life for a lot more money. It needs to be recognised by all as a mistake and put right- including by GP's. It's unfair for doctors to be paid as they are and yet subcontract care outside restricted hours to anonymous locums and A&E units that may not have quality staff anyway.Don't nibble at the issue. Lay out exactly what we actually want from GPs .

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    Lets spend millions making things worse under the guise of austerity and then near to election time lets spend millions more putting things back again so that it looks like things are getting better.

    What a waste.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    GP Partner

    Also GP's are expected to pay 5-7k insurance just to practice, and have student debt from 6 years of medical school to pay off...We can work 8am and finish at 8pm most days.'

    Oh my poor darling! How DO you manage? Here - wipe you eyes with this wad of twenties.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    #155 the silent majority: it would be better if you remained silent as your post betrays a complete lack of knowledge of the subject matter. As Abraham Lincoln said: "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt."

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    I want that the coalition make sure, that they stand up to the European bolshevism and communism culture and I want that the coalition give the british people the promised referendum to leave or not to leave the EU and I want that the GPs can work with confidence and without 1000 regulations and policies which hinders them x

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    Why do we (the long suffering electorate) have to be subjected to policies designed to improve the success of party conferences ?
    All of these policies refer to issues far more weighty that an MPs annual booze up - perhaps if these policies were made away from the conference they would be a little more level headed ?


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