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The waiting game

A cuckoo in the healthcare nest

GPs in north-east London will be among the first subjected to some of the Government's latest plans for improving access to primary care.

Documents from North East London strategic health authority reveal proposals to enforce 12-hours-a-day, seven- days-a-week opening as the 'default standard' for new practices and GPs moving to new premises.

The news follows Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt's announcement last month of extended opening hours at six new pilot practices in England, which are being put out to tender.

The east London initiative follows a pilot involving three practices (see above) that sought to prove opening from 8am to 8pm seven days a week was 'feasible and beneficial'.

The 'Eight till Eight' pilots, which received extra funding, opened thousands more consultation slots, lengthened consultation times and saw list sizes increase.

But other GPs in the area said there was no way they could follow suit.

Dr Bhupinder Kohli, a GP in East Ham, who works in a large NHS Lift-funded building, said his staff had told him they did not want to change their hours.

'The vast majority like a nine-to-five working week,' he said.

One GP in Newham, who asked not to be named, said that extending the scheme

was as likely as 'pigs flying' unless GPs were given extra money.

North East London SHA has also said it wants to move towards using a smaller number of larger GP surgeries.

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