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GP childcare scheme 'a waste of money'

A £6 million Government scheme to help GPs with child- care arrangements has had no impact since it was set up in February and has been a waste of money, GPs have claimed.

The initiative has paid for 174 co-ordinators to help health professionals find and pay for childcare. But many GPs said they had had no contact from a co-ordinator or their primary care organisation and have seen no benefits from the scheme.

The criticism has prompted the GPC to undertake a survey of the childcare arrangements available to GPs and what new facilities have been set up.

Dr Lucy Henshall, a part-time GP in Ipswich with three children, said she had 'not heard a squeak' from her PCO about the scheme. 'I'm unaware of anything having changed locally. I believe a co-ordinator was appointed but I've not had any contact with them,' she said.

Dr Helena McKeown, a GP in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and mother of three, said her 13-month-old daughter had been on the hospital creche's waiting list for 18 months.

'I think the childcare co-ordinators have been a waste of money,' she said.

'The money should have gone on providing actual childcare for GPs or giving us tax breaks to organise our own. I have had to fight tooth and nail to stay on that list.'

The Medical Women's Federation agreed the scheme had failed to make an impact.

Dr Fiona Cornish, president of the Cambridge branch of the federation, said GPs could organise their own childcare and called for a voucher system to be set up to help them tailor arrangements. 'There are all sorts of other reasons GPs find it harder to arrange childcare to do with their hours,' she added.

GPC member Dr Chaand Nagpaul said he suspected the GPC survey would show the vast majority of GPs had been unaffected by the Government initiative.

He added the Government's promise in the new GMS contract for GPs to have the same access to childcare as other health professionals gave a 'misleading impression'. He said: 'It's offering a GP a service that's either not available or inappropriate to GPs.'

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