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Government 'frustrated' with GPs not keeping their side of seven-day 'deal'

Prime Minister Theresa May was speaking out of ‘frustration’ with GP leaders reneging on commitments to seven day access when she blamed GPs for causing the A&E crisis, the health secretary has claimed.

Speaking in front of the Commons health committee today, Jeremy Hunt defended the Prime Minister’s comments that GPs were 'not providing the access patients need' , saying that GP leaders were 'scaling back' their seven-day commitments despite NHS England promising to increase primary care funding by 14% by 2020 - £2.4bn a year. 

But GP leaders pointed out that many seven-day pilots are having to scale down their operations because the funding provided by the Government is proving inadequate. 

Mr Hunt was responding to questions from GP and committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston who said ‘very many GPs had felt demoralised and scapegoated’ by the Prime Minister’s comments.

Dr Wollaston also highlighted problems with existing seven-day access schemes, such as the one revealed by Pulse where local GP leaders are requiring practices to ensure 60% of their extended access appointments are taken up to ‘assure NHS England of value for money’.

But Mr Hunt told the MPs that the main problem with the schemes was reluctance on the part of GPs.

He said: ‘I think the comments that were made [by Theresa May] were in part a sense of frustration shared throughout the Government that some GP leaders had talked about scaling back GPs’ commitment to a seven-day NHS despite the fact that the Government made a commitment last year for a 14% real-terms increase in GP’s annual budget by the end of the parliament - an extra £2.4bn - as part of a very carefully costed and agreed programme towards making sure people are offered seven-day access to GPs.

‘I think it’s very important that, as the Government must stick to its side of the deal on funding for general practice, that the profession also respects – as part of its side of the deal – its meeting of manifesto commitments.’

He added that general practice was seeing more investment than any part of the NHS, other than perhaps mental health.

But GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said that GPs were under no contractual obligation to deliver on the Conservative Party's manifesto pledges.

He added: 'This is a local issue related to roll out of weekend service and is not linked to the national contract. The reality is that the funding promised in the GPFV is a lot less than many PM Challenge Fund sites have been operating on and they've had to start cutting back on the services they'd set up because they are no longer sustainable with the funding they are now being provided with.

'However, [Mrs May's comments] had little to do with GP seven-day services and everything to do with trying to create a smokescreen to distract attention from the wider NHS and social care crisis. The attempt to scapegoat GPs spectacularly backfired and patients know the reality of the situation.'

The first line of the Conservative Party manifesto pledges everyone will have routine seven-day access to ‘your GP’.

In the same session, Mr Hunt has conceded that demand on Sundays and Saturday afternoons tended to be lower than Saturday morning.

He also talked about the impact of Brexit on health and social care, saying:

  • The UK had not experienced the immediate economic slowdown predicted, and the ‘long-term impact of Brexit could be positive’ and a catalyst for other changes;
  • One area to change when the UK has left the EU would be standardising stricter tests for EU nationals’ clinical language skills, which currently only apply for doctors from outside the European Economic Area;
  • There have been ‘anecdotal’ reports of a decline in applications for NHS jobs from the EU, but not a mass exodus;
  • Plans to charge overseas visitors for using the NHS have been superseded by Brexit, and there are no immediate plans to push this forward.

Readers' comments (15)

  • Can the frustrated Government explain why it slashed the extended hours payments in 2011 yet spent the next 6 years proclaiming in public they wish GPs would do more extended hours?

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  • Vinci Ho

    You just cannot dislike Agent Hunt if you were the prime minister, can you?
    Three things defining the 'frustration' of Auntie May at the moment :
    (1) Blaming GP with no evidence on A/E crisis
    (2) Refusal to answer whether she knew about the possibly failed Trident experiment last June
    (3) Supreme Court defeated the government on necessity of parliamentary debate on Brexit .

    May be going to visit Trump is a lot more important and less 'frustrating'.
    The truth is : you want us to open 7 days a week ;
    I would say : No deal is better than a bad deal. Good luck for your trip to America........

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  • What deal was that? ... did I miss something ?

    May/ Hunt et al want us to open 7 days a week. We don't want to because we're struggling to cope with a 5 days service on current funding and staffing levels.

    It is a contentious issue between the 2 parties but there hasn't been an 'agreement' that i am aware of.

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  • Quite simple, Ceremy. If you want us to open 7 days, say you do, show us how it will be resourced and then give over the money. All this "rescue" / "forward view" BS means nothing unless you can sit down with GPs and sign it off. I have lots of "future money" too. My bank manager knows I will be buying a Ferrari, a flat in Monaco, a super yacht and a flight to space with Richard Branson "by 2020" but until the money is on the table, she knows that is Bull**it too.

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  • Oh, and by the way as a GP who has worked 4 sessions a week for our OOH service for over 10 years(which doesn't have an upper limit of capacity to fall back on) I was particularly offended by Theresa Maybe's implication that A&E takes all the hit as soon as the lazy GP goes home to the Gin Palace at 18-30. So many misunderstandings even in this last sentence to be slapped back against with, well perhaps a large wet cod (see Monty Python Fish Dance)!!

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  • There is NO DEAL with people I would not cross the road to pee on if they were on fire.The five year forward view is a joke by the time we get to 2020 the UK will be financially disabled by Brexit.The money will not appear.

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  • Dear All,
    Actually Mr Hunt its not us that are defaulting on a "deal", its the patients, they're being awkward and not turning up on saturday evenings and sundays. Dont blame us, blame the patients who don't want what you are offering.Regards
    Paul C

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  • HMS Vengeance had a GP on board. The Locheed D3 Trident didn't go off course it was aimed directly at Terry May's head.

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  • Healthy Cynic

    ‘I think it’s very important that, as the Government must stick to its side of the deal on funding for general practice, that the profession also respects – as part of its side of the deal – its meeting of manifesto commitments.’

    Since when does a manifesto promise become the responsibility of a profession to deliver? Is this man a complete idiot or is he simply duplicitous and lacking any semblance of integrity or a conscience?

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  • Dear mr Hunt

    The UK cannot afford this as we are skint and have built up massive personal and national debts. If you want me to see routine patients on a Sunday will you provide funding to access pathology services, community XR etc?

    There is already something called GP out of hours which prevents thousands of A&E attendences a yr and is understaffed and underfunded. Will you invest in your disastrous 111 system which provides access to this service? Many patients have lost faith with it or don't know it exists.

    Morale is incredibly low, perhaps the NI plan B will wake you up - or perhaps you would be happy with a plan B?

    I predict we are headed for a 2 tier service similar to dentists. Even longer waits to see a NHS GP if you can find one or quick access to private GP only for patients who can afford it like yourself with your recent windfall.

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