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Government wants COPD and sexual health in QOF

Pressure is mounting on the Government to develop a more accurate method for

assessing primary care access after its own watchdog questioned ministers' claims they had successfully solved the problem.

The Healthcare Commission's annual report on the state of health care in England and Wales showed a quarter of people were still waiting more than two days to see a GP, with some patients waiting up to three weeks for routine appointments.

The figures are in stark contrast to PCT surveys which show 99 per cent of patients get to see a GP within two working days.

Michael Carpenter, author of the report, said 'questions needed to be raised' about a major discrepancy between PCT surveys and patient views on 48-hour access.

'We need to make sure people are monitoring the potential consequences of indicators but also improving them to a better level to determine what people want and need,' he said.

GPs warned that such an approach could place greater pressure on practices from PCTs if it became evident that fewer practices were meeting 48-hour access.

GPC negotiator Dr Rich-ard Vautrey said: 'The patient's perspective of what the practices are able to offer doesn't meet with reality.'

The report also found 11 per cent of people in towns and 17 per cent in country

areas had problems securing appointments. Almost a quarter of people were deterred from going to their GP because of inconvenient opening hours and a third of GPs would not book appointments over two weeks in advance.

The Department of Health, which has shifted its focus to practices that do not offer advance appointments, stood by its claims that nearly all patients can get an appointment in two working days.

But a spokesman said: 'Our aim now is to make improved access more real for more

people.'

Dr Bernard Dowling, an access expert at the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre, said the perception of patients was shaped more by their own experience 'rather than reading a percentage put forward' by the Government.

By Daile Pepper

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