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Government attacks Tories extended hours plans

By Gareth Iacobucci

The Government has hit back at Conservative plans to scrap extended hours targets for GPs.

Labour MPs also criticised Tory opposition to GP-led health centres, accusing shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley of being ‘a roadblock to reform'.

In a heated Commons debate, which had been called to celebrate 60 years of the NHS, Labour MPs defended the Government's controversial reforms, which they claimed were necessary to meet patients changing needs.

They slammed Tory plans to scrap the 50% target for extended opening, as first revealed by Pulse, claiming they would reduce people's access to their GP.

The debate follows intense criticism of the Government from opposition MPs at last week's debate on polyclinics, and at the annual LMCs conference, where delegates called for the heads of health secretary Alan Johnson and health minister Lord Darzi over their treatment of general practice.

But Stephen Hesford, Labour MP for Wirral West, said the Conservatives ‘will not support the necessary reforms to take the NHS into the 21st century'.

He said: ‘Conservative policy is smoke and mirrors. The Conservative leader has promised to scrap extended hours for GP surgeries. That is not taking GP practices into the 21st century: it is going backwards.

‘If his party scraps extended hours as it has promised to do, it will reduce people's access to primary care.'

He added: ‘The Conservatives are against GP-led health centres. Again, if there was a 21st century, forward-looking Conservative programme, I cannot see why they would be against them. It will not destabilise local GPs.'

However, the Conservatives hit back, and pledged to free the NHS from bureaucracy and centralised targets.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said current policy was ‘dictated by the Government through national targets, (and) is still geared towards processes and targets rather than health outcomes for patients. A change of direction is vital.'

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