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 353.

    Skype appointments:

    How many times in a surgery, has the GP said, "well, let's have a feel", or "let's examine you more closely". How frustrating for a concerned patient to have to make a 2nd appointment to actually see their GP in person.

    And will the pressure put on GPs to accommodate more Skype appointments, mean they have less time for person-to-person appointments?

  • rate this

    Comment number 352.

    Access is all very well. It's difficult getting an appointment at the best of times, but when I get to a GP, I want one who can think outside the Dept of Health allotted box. Who isn't so worn out with the targeting, quoffing and endless irrelevant demands on them, that they have ceased to be able to practice reflective medicine at all and are now just working like a Zombie.

  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    GPs are now extremely well paid , have good working conditions and can look forward to a wealthy and very comfortable retirement. They also seem to have attracted the "customers are a nuisance" virus . I always wonder why they moan about having their time wasted on missed appointments but feel not the least bothered about patients festering in the waiting room an hour after their appointment time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 350.

    One of the reasons A&E departments give is that they are seeing too many people who should have gone to a GP.

    Therefore having GP's stay open longer is an excellent answer to it.

    The question then becomes will GP's then become over stretched. Given that our GP's are amongst the highest paid on the planet even more than countries with private medical coverage I think they should do the hours

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    I am a GP. Interesting idea, though obviously aimed at the Conservative conference faithful. Two points.

    There is already access to out-of-hours GP care 24/7, 365 days a year. What exactly does Mr Cameron want in addition to this?

    If GPs are asked to work weekends, then they will be less available Monday to Friday, so there will be less GP availability 5 days a week. Do people want this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    Patients of retirement age and a lot older have to have appointments when they can get them and when they have someone to transport them. Saturdays at my surgery and one evening surgery were limited to COMMUTERS only. Working people need out of work medical appointments so that they do not upset bosses or draw attention to their poor health- they don't want to be earmarked for redundancy etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    Don't GP s get it? We are not actually asking for them to work longer hours. I don't want to be diagnosed by a tired doctor. We are just asking for them to work more convenient hours for their patients. My vet does appointments up to 7pm and is open all day Saturday. It's harder to become a vet than a doctor and they have family lives that are important to them too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    Cameron talking about healthcare?... not to be trusted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.

    So many ill informed people posting on here with regard GP's hours, pay etc, when they don't have the first clue what their job entails.
    My wife is a GP and works 50 plus hours most weeks and recently that's creeping up to near 60 her partners work the same. Yes lazy bunch all of them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 344.


    I see your hard at work :-D

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    OUTSIDE WORK HOURS - This man really is an idiot, what are work hours nowadays? Employers expect you to be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at the same rate of pay...... we cant all be fortunate enough to be MP's!

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

    Doctors who would rather be businessmen than get people better, teachers who have to do endless paperwork to the point that much teaching is done by classroom assistants or parents at home, and police hamstrung by endless bureaucracy so there's little time to detect or solve crime. Firemen...the list goes on.

    Save your promises Dave. Last one out, turn off the lights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    So lets keep this simple.

    Every new GP, who begins practice from 1st Jan 2014 has a new contract.......

    Then a start would have been made.

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    great idea for someone like myself. I work 9-5 monday to friday and have to manage a chronic illness. I need to see my doctor on a regular basis nad have trouble getting time off work to do so. Luckily my employer in understanding but i know many employers that aren't. I had a freind who had to choose his health over his job, just becauce NHS wasn't accessable after 5pm or weekends.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    @332. whowrotethis

    If we live in a 24/7 society why does the earliest train from B'ham to Euston on a Sunday get in at 10.28 am ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    This, coming from someone who's hell bent on destroying public services?

    They'll probably sub-contract us all out to ATOS and then we will be in a mess. To get an appointment we'll have to fill out one of those Work Assessment Questionnaires It'll then be a 10 second visit to be told "If you walked into the surgery there's nothing wrong with you. Get out."

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    Also apply to banks, post offices .....
    Go at lunch to find its full of OAPs & waste your lunch break queuing. Lunch breaks are our only times to go as my local banks/post offices shut before 5 & don't open first thing either. Probably p*** off people with this but they have all day to go whereas we are limited on time & its a struggle. Constantly feel like get penalised for working.

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    Problem with like hospital appointments alot of Retired elderly people seem to book their appointments at times that working people need. I don't want to bash the retired and elderly because the tories have already done that, but really they should be taking the appointments between 9 - 12 and 1 - 4 where working people are at work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    .those of us that have to lose a days wage in order to see you would probably see you more often and be healthier..
    Any doctors appointments I attend are during working hours, it takes approx. 1 Hour to do this.

    It may be a bit longer for others depending on circumstances but losing a days pay?

    I'm sure most people don't need a whole day off for a Doctors appointment

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    some more fallout from the last labour govt that this lot have to put right. gp's must have thought it was christmas come early when they saw the contract given to them by labour. i bet they thought 'sign it quick, before they realise what a stupid contract it is and change their minds".


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