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GP takes pain out of co-proxamol ban

Practices that are unable to

offer appointments more then two days ahead are to be

targeted as part of a Government-ordered crackdown on access.

Ministers say they have 'identified' practices embargoing slots beyond the 48-hour access target and have ordered health authorities and PCTs to take action.

In a Commons written answer, health minister Dr Stephen Ladyman said the restrictions were 'not consistent with delivery of a patient-

focused service'.

Practices have been identified after ministers told PCTs in November to ask as part of their monthly access survey how far in advance GPs were allowing appointments to be booked.

A number of strategic health authorities and PCTs have since highlighted the issue as a concern.

Heart of Birmingham Teaching PCT has laid out plans to set up minimum standards for access, which include a requirement for GPs to offer advance bookings.

Dr Robert Morley, Birmingham LMC executive secretary, said: 'We are definitely under a lot of pressure particularly from PCTs. But if we are to meet the 48-hour access target we have to restrict advanced bookings. There is no slack in the system and something has to give. The Government needs to look at its target before it starts waving a stick at GPs.'

Latest figures from North East London strategic health authority showed that 34 practices, including nine in Newham, 10 in Redbridge and seven in Waltham Forest, did not offer appointments beyond 48 hours.

Around one in five of the area's 397 practices were unable to offer appointments more than a week in advance.

Dr Stewart Drage, GPC negotiator and London LMCs joint chief executive, said targeting of practices was always worrying. He said: 'I hope that whatever is planned practices receive the help and support they need. I'm sure though that the devil will be in the detail.'

The Department of Health has promised GPs they will not be docked quality points if they restrict pre-bookable appointments. The pledge came after the GPC protested at the inclusion of the new question in the access survey.

By Joe Lepper

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