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GPs 'are not taking advantage' of NHS childcare scheme

By Nerys Hairon

GPs are failing to take advantage of NHS childcare provision, a Government-commissioned report concludes.

The study by childcare charity Daycare Trust found GPs and practice staff were the 'most difficult to reach' group for childcare co-ordinators.

Co-ordinators reported 'an unsupportive attitude in many practices', particularly from practice managers, and that their work was being 'hampered by a traditional animosity between GPs and other parts of the NHS'.

But the report also found some co-ordinators were against giving priority to

higher-paid groups such as GPs, even though childcare was a factor in improving recruitment and retention.

One co-ordinator said: 'I support GPs, but the money should go to lower-paid people. I limit my services to GPs to advice only.'

Overall, the study found 83 per cent of parents working in the NHS said the childcare strategy was helpful. But many GP practices had not seen the childcare offered as 'relevant'.

It concluded: 'Childcare co-ordinators effectively had to convince small businesses [GP practices] to take on an initiative that they might not regard as relevant to them.'

GPs argued there was not enough capacity in childcare schemes and primary care organisations have failed to make them aware of their eligibility.

A BMA survey last year revealed only four of 122 PCTs in England had met the childcare requirements of GPs and practice staff.

Dr Helena McKeown, a GP in Salisbury, Wiltshire, said her 20-month-old baby never reached the top of a waiting list for a place at the hospital crèche. She said NHS childcare was not designed to meet GPs' needs.

'I did access our childcare co-ordinator but found she could not offer me one childminder locally that could do my slots for two or three children,' she added. 'I am concerned that PCTs have just not put the effort in because the capacity is not there.'

Dr Lucy Henshall, a part-time GP in Ipswich with three children, said there was no obstruction from GPs and practice managers. 'The nuts and bolts of it are that there is not any more childcare and it's not any cheaper than it was,' she added.

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