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Extra work - on our terms

Phil says GPs can bleat on about extended access – or take the initiative on extra hours

Phil says GPs can bleat on about extended access – or take the initiative on extra hours

Another slight shift in the tectonic plates, and another moderately sized avalanche of shite falls onto the heads of GPs. This time it is extended surgery hours.

When I saw last week's Sunday Times headline, ‘Family doctors will be asked to work evenings and weekends', my initial thought was: ‘You can ask whatever you like, pal.'

However, realism soon kicked in. This was a calculated attack by that young bairn of a health secretary, Alan Johnson. We will have to shed our nine-to-five mentality, by all accounts. (Is there a GP in this country who only works nine-to-five? Our contract specifies 8am until 6.30pm, for a start.)

There was a survey earlier this year, much trumpeted beforehand, much feared by the profession due to the Government-planted questions on GP access, and much bloody well ignored by the media since the results were published.

Turns out we are not that bad. Some 84% of our patients, nationwide, were happy with access to their GPs (90-odd% in my town, 95% in my own practice. Excuse me this wee boast). It would be nice if we had a 100% approval rate, but you can't please everyone.

However, it doesn't matter what our patients want. Gordon Brown wants extended opening hours, and that's all that matters. Our patients didn't want Choose and Book, but they've got it.

I think I can recognise a political tide that we medical Canutes are not going to be able to reverse. And although I would rather not do Saturday mornings and the odd evening again (I remember what an utter waste of time it was), I am of the opinion that my wants and desires are going to be irrelevant.

Extended access is coming

Extended surgery access is coming, whether we like it or not. You might argue that it is not in our contract, but one of the lesser-known aspects of our ‘contract' is that the terms can be altered by our Government with no negotiation and three months' notice. It's a moot point whether an agreement that can be changed unilaterally is a contract at all; I would suggest that it isn't. However, that's what we've got.

Our options are twofold. We can bleat and complain and try to hold our paymasters to the agreement they brokered. We'll be spun against and portrayed as greedy selfish clock-watchers.

Or we can take the initiative.

We can use PBC and plan a sensible extension of surgery opening hours, cost it out, calculate reasonable remuneration and present it as a LES. This would be voluntary so single-handed and smaller practices would not be coerced.

I think I'm doing enough as it is, and the vast majority of my patients seem to agree. However,

if I am to be forced into this extra work I would rather do it on my own terms, properly remunerated, than be bullied into doing it for nothing or next to nothing. We can afford to give Gordon Brown his way on this one – but let's insist on a fair day's wage for a fair day's work.

What genuine Labour politician could argue with that?

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