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Independents' Day

Government ‘lacks credible plan’ for improving GP access, say MPs

The Government's plans to boost access to GP appointments and expand the workforce lack credibility, according to an influentiual committee of MPs.

The Public Accounts Committee made the comments in a progress report on the Government's GP access programme, which aims to deliver 8am-8pm routine appointments to all, seven days a week, by 2020 and 5,000 more GPs by 2020.

According to the report, the Government is 'moving ahead in rolling out extended hours without really understanding the level of access currently being provided or how to get the best from existing resources'.

It also noted that there is a risk that the evening and weekend GP appointments pledge ‘could prove expensive and duplicate existing out-of-hours services’

On access, the report also noted that 'many GP services are closed to patients at times during supposedly core hours, leading to worse outcomes for patients'.

It highlighted NHS England's attempts to address this via the changes to the extended hours DES in this year’s GMS contract and recommended that NHS England reports back on progress later this year.

The report further warned that there had been 'no progress’ on increasing the number of GPs in the past year, following the latest GP workforce figures which showed the full-time workforce dropped by 1.3% (400 GPs) in the last three months of 2016.

The MPs said that NHS bosses ‘still lack a credible plan for ensuring that there are enough GPs…in the right areas’.

They added: 'NHS England and Health Education England have several initiatives in place to boost recruitment further, to make better use of other staff groups, and to ease workload and encourage staff to stay.

'However, they are pursuing these discrete initiatives without a credible plan for how to develop a cost-effective, sustainable workforce.'

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the PAC's review was 'yet another important report that highlights that general practice is under incredible strain'.

He said: 'In this climate, it is inevitable that despite the continued hard work of NHS staff, there are not enough appointments being delivered to patients.

'With many parts of the NHS at breaking point, we need politicians of all parties to not duck the serious challenges facing general practice in the upcoming general election.'

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: 'We share the frustrations of the Public Accounts Committee that despite promises of more investment in general practice and more GPs, our patients are still finding it difficult to make a GP appointment, and family doctors are still reporting intense resource and workforce pressures that are making it difficult for them to deliver safe patient care.'

She added that the college 'agreed' with the report 'that forcing GPs to work 8-8, seven days a week, regardless of patient demand makes little sense and is not cost-effective – and we reiterate our concerns that this will simply detract from the routine five day service we are able to deliver for patients'.

Labour's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the report was 'a damning indictment' of the Conservative Government's 'incompetence in running our NHS and social care system'.

He added: 'General practice has been utterly neglected by the Tories, with a disastrous workforce crisis leaving patients stranded and unable to see their local GP.'

Readers' comments (13)

  • the NHS has had no credible workforce plan since 1948 except to recruit from overseas. Now that the working conditions and hourly pay (the long hours mean take-home is still reasonable for most)are dire they won't come

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  • Hunt's foetor permeated the airwaves this morning through the Daily Mail maligning lazy GPs for closing half day and not caring for patients.
    Do you still want to vote Tory and indulge in coprophagia. Be my guests and join the creepy cardigans who are crawling all over from CCGs to NHSE and DoH.

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  • just rang a GP surgery to ask for advice on a mutual patient

    The phone message says they are shut til 2pm. This is at 10 am on a Thursday morning!! Surely it is not too much to expect you could employ a receptionist.

    This is nothing to do with a GP workforce crisis, its just shoddy

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  • 11:54 - Could you please let us know what Surgery you rang? We do have black sheep amongst us and some of them are actually working in CCGs and can't be bothered to look after their own patients. Worthwhile knowing which normal GP closes surgery at 10 am. Maybe it's a single handed GP who closes only Thursday morning or has had a hospital appointment - which we could actually accept.

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  • Or perhaps it is a branch surgery.

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  • Vinci Ho

    If the opppositions have the guts and dare , write down in thier manifesto to drop 7 days 8-8 GP opening!
    Then the message is 'anyone but Tories' for this general election .

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  • So I rang back at 2pm to discuss the serious failure of continuity of care that had prompted my call. Cheerful lady says 'Sorry no GP available. We only have locums and a practice nurse' It was not a branch surgery...

    Surely under the Trade Descriptions Act this can't be called a GP surgery. There are real people here getting appalling care

    How can we move care into the community when there is quite literally no one left. I am terrified for my patient and the thousands like her registered here

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  • receptionists want paying

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  • But they are not a 'nice to have' but a JBDI. Either you run a safe service or you call it a day. Who is this helping?

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