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GPs are embroiled in a row with PCOs over demands to keep their practices open all day and not take a lunch break.

Three local health boards in Wales have insisted GPs keep their doors open for the entire in-hours period between 8am and 6.30pm or face losing quality points for access.

Swansea, Bridgend and Neath Port Talbot health boards said practices must provide 'continuous access' for patients during their core hours and run both morning and afternoon surgeries.

They also argue that closing for lunch should be 'the exception rather than the rule' and where it does occur should be for no more than one hour.

GPs have reacted with fury to the proposals, which the health boards say will take

effect from January 1.

Dr Ian Millington, secretary of Morgannwg LMC and a GP in Swansea, said the boards were not in a position to dictate GPs' opening hours.

GPs needed only to be 'available' for their patients between 8am and 6.30pm, and neither the 45-hour face-to-face working week nor the 48-hour access times were a necessity, he added.

'We GPs are effectively being dictated to about how we should open in the area, and this should not be the case,' Dr Millington said.

Dr David Hughes, also a GP in Swansea, said the health boards were not promising to pay for the extra staff needed to open longer.

'That will mean the money will have to come from the surgery, and therefore from the GP's wages,' he added.

Dr Andrew Dearden, GPC Wales chair, said many PCTs and health boards were 'trying things on'.

He added: 'If GPs don't know the contract they may feel obliged to take on something they don't have to. There is nowhere in the contract that says when surgery doors should be open. It's entirely up to the practice.'

Dr Nigel Watson, chief executive of Wessex LMC, said it had to intervene to stop PCTs in the region trying to 'dictate' GP surgery times.

By Simon Crawshaw

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