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Ministers 'bullying' GPs over access

By Steve Nowottny

The GPC has hit out at a ‘bullying' letter from the Department of Health which demands PCTs take immediate action to improve access to GPs.

PCTs will be called to meet with their SHA next month to discuss local action plans, and are expected to ‘demonstrate tangible improvements to patients' by December.

The letter follows last month's Patient Experience Survey which found an overwhelming 84% of patients were satisfied with their practice's opening hours.

In the letter Mark Britnell, the department's new director-general of commissioning and system management, tells PCTs to ‘make full use of existing contractual arrangements and other mechanism to ensure more locally response services.'

They should urge ‘GPs as professionals to respond to the needs and expectations of their patients, for instance by opening practices for longer,' he said.

The letter also confirms the Healthcare Commission will use data from the Patient Experience Survey as a performance indicator to rate PCTs. This will reward PCTs providing 48-hour access to an increasingly high proportion of patients.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC, said: ‘This is one more sign that the old ways within the department are yet to change despite the change in Secretary of State and Prime Minister.'

‘There is still a very strong agenda within the department that is anti-GP, that is trying to increase private provision within general practice. It flies in the face of evidence that patients are clearly saying, through the GP survey and other surveys, they are more than happy with the service GPs are providing.'

Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC chair, said he had had a ‘private' meeting with Mr Britnell to discuss the contents of the letter.

Dr Richard Vautrey: Still a strong 'anti-GP' agenda within the Department of Health Dr Richard Vautrey: Still a strong 'anti-GP' agenda within the Department of Health

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