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GPs stop advance bookings to achieve 48-hour access

GPs are refusing to let patients book appointments in advance because of intense Government pressure to hit the 48-hour access target.

A leaked memo from the National Primary Care Development Team says at least three practices using the advanced access system are improving their access figures by telling patients they have to call on the day.

Advanced access practices set aside the majority of slots for same-day appointments, but are meant to keep some for advance booking.

The revelation that GPs are fiddling their access figures comes after hospital staff admitted altering statistics to make it appear they were hitting Department of Health targets.

GPs said increasing pressure from ministers and financial incentives to hit the target were responsible for the move.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, GPC member and a GP in Harrow, Middlesex, said restricting advance appointments was a widespread practice.

He said: 'I think this demonstrates how the access target is resulting in perverse behaviour by some GPs.'

The memo written by deputy head of the NPDT Guy Rotherham admits 'there are no formal mechanisms to stop the practice'.

Mr Rotherham told Pulse GPs were free to restrict advance appointments as long as patients were happy with the policy. But he said advanced access has 'nothing to do with restricting any booking'.

A department spokesman said practices should offer advance appointments. He added: 'Patients should be able to make appointments in advance, and this must remain the case.'

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