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GPs go forth

GP seven-day access costs to exceed £1.5bn by 2021

At least £1.5bn will be ploughed into extending GP access by 2021, but the Conservatives will still not be able to deliver what they promised in their manifesto, a Pulse analysis reveals.

The analysis shows that £283m has already been allocated to pilots that are running in various areas across the country. Over £1bn will be spent from 2018/19 in order to roll out seven-day GP access across the country.

But even with this large investment, the original commitment from the Conservatives to have access to GPs 'from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week’ will not be fulfilled.

NHS England has told commissioners it will give them £6 per patient to extend GP access by an additional 1.5 hours on weekdays, but does not demand 8am to 8pm opening at weekends – only some level of prebookable and same-day appointments ‘to meet local population needs’.

And this investment comes despite GP funding not meeting demand in core hours, leading to lengthening waiting times.

Evidence from the pilots has shown patients are not very enthusiastic about seeing their doctor on a Sunday. And although the scheme does reduce A&E attendances, the costs have been shown to outweigh the savings by as much as 15 times.

GPs have pointed out that the £6 per patient funding is way below the funding given to some of the pilot schemes that did provide 12-hour access every day of the week.

Leeds GP Dr Patrick Geraghty, who helped set up his local seven-day access hub, says it is working well, but only with significant CCG investment: 'At the moment, we are very lucky that NHS Leeds West CCG funds us £13.10 per patient on top of the NHS England funding.

'I don’t know what we would be able to offer from Monday to Sunday for £6 per patient. It wouldn’t be much of a service, to be honest.’

Doncaster LMC medical secretary and GPC member Dr Dean Eggitt called it an 'appalling’ waste of money: 'We are gambling on the prospect of a new system when we don’t know whether or not it is going to work.

'I think the Government is hoping smaller practices will die out and bigger practices will naturally want to take on the bigger contracts with seven-day access.’

But others are more optimistic. David Pannell, chief executive of the Suffolk GP Federation, who has led a pilot, says: 'It looks like quite generous funding, which I think will allow people to offer a good service.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said: 'We are committed to giving patients the right care at the right time from excellent, well-resourced GPs across the week – and we don’t recognise the conclusions drawn here. This is a pledge that we know can reduce pressure on A&E and other parts of the system. 

'What’s more, 17 million patients have already benefited from extended GP access at evenings and weekends and we have backed NHS England’s GP Forward View with £2.4 billion, as well as expanding the GP workforce by 5,000 by 2020.'

Readers' comments (7)

  • Vinci Ho

    (1) I think even Mr Smith or Jones will understand that the 'investment' is no new money. The House of Commons health committee clearly identified the claim of £10 billions going into NHS was entirely 'inaccurate'(I tried to avoid using the word 'hoax').
    (2) These pilots should be renamed as propaganda instead and you obviously know what I mean. And the money is unlimited for propaganda e.g. US presidential campaigns , Chinese government's so called maintenance of stability . Of course , these 'pilots' are comparatively peanuts but important for the Tories to 'win the public over'.
    (3) One would really like to see the breakdown of how all the money was spent in NHS and more importantly where have all the efficiency savings gone ? I think we all know it does not add up as proclaimed by the government .
    (4) The latest news is statement from Academy of Royal Colleges to draw up a list of investigations and treatments that will be discouraged on NHS: 'Doctors name treatments that bring little or no benefit - BBC News'. This is fundamentally sound in terms of controlling demands and saving resources but my concern is always about educating the public with the right message and this part should be led by a responsible government . Do we have faith?
    (5) But I suppose the government can still please the public by giving them back something called 7 days GP opening in return of this . Call me sinister !
    Well ,as I said on the other article about interim workforce , Things are not always what they seem.....Who am I to judge ??

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  • Well of course, keeping the GP Surgery open at weekends is 40% more cost and more GPs shall be needed because one cannot expect a single GP to work morning until night 7 days a week.

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  • "...we don’t recognise the conclusions drawn here.."

    A politician's response if ever the was one. Most of us, with far better reason, didn't recognise the weekend effect conclusion drawn by J Hunt.

    Why can they not see that same result would be achieved at less cost and inconvenience by increasing in hours funding? That might even encourage new recruits to the over-stretched service.

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  • first fix the fundamental in hours issues. This in itself will take years of effort/investment. Forget new schemes.

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  • Two considerations:
    1) Will this spending result in significant better outcomes for patients? Will patients live longer, be healthier and feel happier? QOF did not deliver this despite a considerably greater investment. If 7 day access fails to deliver improved outcomes it cannot be termed as an investment in any terms. The nature of politics, however, is pandering to perceptions rather than delivering something that is evidence-based.
    2) Will this benefit General Practice? Given the increased costs and increased hours it is not an efficient use of available resources. It increases the burden on those who are there and makes it less attractive to become a provider in this service. It creates both a financial, emotional and probably physical burden.
    Looks like the only benefit from this is fewer, less healthy doctors. Benefit in that fewer doctors is a saving in salaries etc, less healthy in that they won't be around that long to collect the pension.

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  • How about fully reimbursing indemnity? No? That takes most people out I'm afraid

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  • in other words..a calamitous monumental waste of money by a totally deluded utterly and laughably incompetent SoS

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