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Hunt to push ahead with routine Sunday GP appointments

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has vowed to implement routine GP appointments until 8pm on Sundays despite evidence suggesting plans should be scrapped.

In an evidence session on health service funding, MPs on the House of Commons Health Committee questioned whether the Government should carry on with its seven-day access plans, despite pilots showing that uptake had been ‘very low’ outside of Saturday morning. 

But Mr Hunt said that seven-day routine GP services had been a clear manifesto commitment’, and as such the Government would push ahead with it.

It comes after the committee’s recent primary care inquiry concluded that the Government should carry out further evaluation of seven-day GP services before funding a full rollout.

Mr Hunt told MPs that the Government’s seven-day NHS secondary care agenda is ’not about elective care’ but about ’improving urgent and emergency care’.

However, he said that the reason for seven-day GP appointments was for convenience for people who work. 

He said: ’When it comes to GP care we have… been very clear that yes, we do want people to be able to make routine appointments at the weekend. We think that is an important thing for the NHS to offer to people who work…

’We have made a clear manifesto commitment that everyone in England will be able to make routine appointments 8-8 at weekends.’

MPs on the committee suggested having an existing out-of-hours GP service running alongside the new routine GP hubs may ‘confuse patients’.

Mr Hunt replied ‘that is why we need proper integration’ between out-of-hours services and NHS 111, with the helpline potentially taking a ’greater role’ in directing patients to the appropriate service.

He said: ’We need to make sure people are appropriately sign-posted because I agree that at the moment it is much too confusing.’

Meanwhile, questioned about the junior doctor contract, Mr Hunt maintained that more people die in NHS hospitals at weekends, despite new research suggesting otherwise. A paper released last week concluded this notion was a ’statistical artefact’

Asked whether the Government should not have made sure it had the evidence first before claiming there was a ‘weekend effect’, Mr Hunt said: ’Well I think we have that evidence.’

It comes after Mr Hunt has repeated the claim that hospitals have unsafe staffing on weekends as reasoning for imposing a new junior doctor contract that would reduce pay for working on Saturdays.

The case against Sunday GP appointments


opening hours special report  PPL - online

opening hours special report PPL - online

opening hours special report PPL

The Health Committee’s primary care report, which referred to Pulse’s investigation into the seven-day pilots, recommended that the Government’s approach to the policy should be ‘evidence based’ and avoid unintended consequences such as damaging weekday services, continuity of care or existing urgent out-of-hours primary care services.

It said: ’The Government should bear in mind evidence that there may be more demand for access to GPs in the evenings or on Saturdays than on Sundays.’

But NHS England already pledged £500m a year to CCGs to commission seven-day routine GP access across England last month.

Pulse has reported that almost half of the Challenge Fund/GP Access pilots have already reduced opening hours, amid lacking patient demand and uncertainty over future funding.

And the official interim evaluation recommended Sunday opening is ditched due to a lack of demand, with the potential of commissioning extended evening opening or Saturday morning clinics.

As revealed by Pulse, NHS England is providing ongoing funding to all of the Prime Minister’s seven-day access pilots after their funding has run out, despite plans for them to become self-sustaining by cutting the number of A&E attendances at weekends and evenings.

Readers' comments (72)

  • This man seems to have a bizarre obsessional fixation with access such that he cannot even process any data that conflicts with his pre-determined views.

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  • I think he knows he has to push this all through no matter the cost. He probably doesnt care as looking at his financial info that circulate the web he's got enough to sail away into the sunset.
    maybe we are the mugs not to have muscled into politics?

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  • Why doesn't GPC send clear message to him that if you bring this up again without showing that how this will be funded on top of normal GP funding, it will not happen........ . If people want 8-8 service 7 days a week somebody will have to pay for it at appropriate level and I don't care who pays for it.
    He can take our contracts back and see people 24/7

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  • So essentially he is saying that although patients neither want nor need it, although it will further deplete the numbers of GPs (both starting and staying) and take those available away from the necessary emergency care and although it will take money that is badly needed elsewhere, he will not consider a change of policy in the face of the evidence because some politician somewhere, presumably making rash promises thinking they would not be returned with a majority) decided it might be a vote-winner.

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  • Bob Hodges

    Why have they been so 'less than fastidious' when pursuing other 'manifesto commitments' that they made?

    No more top down reorganisations of the NHS - 2010 anyone?

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  • Well I suppose he has do something to win public votes...

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  • ignore the evidence and pursue your political agenda- classic Hunt

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  • This man's obession with full NHS 7 day service is war.

    Ditch your NHS contracts!

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  • Ah, you gotta love the Hunt. The PMs little pawn. He'll create some demand and the GREAT British public will fill it - give it time.

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  • Ivan?????

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