GPC ready to talk on extended hours
GP leaders are prepared to open talks with the Government over extending surgery opening hours, while rejecting its negative spin on the results of the patient experience survey.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, GPC chair, told Pulse he would resist any attempts to use MPIG cash to pay for flexible opening – but would be prepared to talk if the money was right.
The GPC believes negotiations should focus on reorganising surgery hours so GPs get time off during the day, or on provision of extra resources for incentive payments and recruitment of GPs and nurses.
Dr Meldrum set out various options he might be willing to discuss (see box below).But he attacked the Government for attempting to find a negative angle in the patient survey results, suggesting ministers had sat on them because they were so positive for GPs.
Dr Meldrum launched a scathing attack on the cost of the survey, describing it as '£11m that could have been spent on patients just to dem-onstrate the bleeding obvious'.
His comments came as health secretary Patricia Hewitt ratcheted up the pressure by claiming the patient survey suggested a significant minority of patients were unhappy with access to surgeries.
She hinted the £11m survey of two million patients would back Gordon Brown's push for extended hours, saying: 'What has been clear is that although the great majority of patients are very happy with their GP there is a significant minority who are not happy.'
Dr Meldrum, who at last week's LMCs conference in London called for urgent talks with Mr Brown, said the GPC was prepared to listen to ministers on access, but added: 'It's not just about paying GPs an extra £15-20,000 a year for working for an extra 10 hours a week. It is about all the resources needed to run a service.'
He said a mechanism for extending hours already existed in local enhanced services.'I'm not going to say whether we would go down the DES road. Local circumstances are variable and it might be constraining. We could certainly give GPs guidance to ensure they were adequately resourced to provide extended services.'
At the LMCs conference, representatives voted unanimously that the Government was conducting a negative propaganda campaign against GPs to pave the way for private providers, warning PCTs were using APMS as a way of forcing in extended hours through the back door.
Dr Alan Thompson, representing Lewisham LMC, said: 'It is clear that PCTs are planning to use APMS as a method for creating practices that are working extended hours.'
'Survey figures are unreliable'
Dr Peter Wilczynski of Northamptonshire LMC told the LMCs conference the Government's patient survey was not only based on leading questions but also unreliable figures.
He said two rival computer systems used for the survey led to massive variations in sample sizes, with those using the Government's preferred software, Apollo, having far smaller numbers surveyed than those using the old Exeter system.Extended hours