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Analysis: A back-door way of introducing seven-day GP opening

Dr Timothy Bland gives his reaction to plans for a ‘surge’ in GP appointments and weekend opening to relieve pressure on urgent care services

These schemes won’t relieve the pressure on urgent care services. The primary care surge scheme to create extra appointments won’t work because the extra appointments in general practice just aren’t there.

To think GP surgeries can take on extra demand, it’s pie in the sky. GP surgeries are already bursting at the schemes. I’m sceptical about the £1m funding. It sounds to me like a big carrot.

Closing the walk in centre isn’t a good idea at all. They handle a huge demand and CCGs are misguided if they think GPs have the capacity to soak up that extra demand. This sounds to me like squeezing more work out of GPs, but this time it’s coming from GPs.

Weekend opening hours were discussed at our LMC recently. It was thought this was a back-door way of getting GPs to provide seven-day-a week coverage. We think they are using it to get GPs in and get people expecting it. Then they’ll remove funding.

That’s what they did with extended hours; the Government brought it in and then they cut it. The feeling is that it will be the same with other projects.

A lot of the problems we’re facing are because [previous health secretary] Andrew Lansley told people to expect more and to expect it from their GPs, but knowing he wasn’t going to increase GP resources.

Dr Timothy Bland is a member of Barking and Havering LMC and a GP in Hornchurch, Havering

Readers' comments (2)

  • I couldn't agree more with Tony. The capacity just isn't there in general practice. What we need to do is create alterative 'care pathways' for patients to divert them away from general practice so that we see those who really need a GP or PN. Other services have introduced demand redirection strategies and general practice needs to follow suit; this will require investment in establishing administrative triage and alternative pathways.

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  • If I was a patient in Barking & Dagenham or Havering I would be more concerned about the sustainability of traditional General Practice than seven day opening. 40% of their GPs are over the age of 55. I hope the local health economy has a plan for sustaining existing GP services before an ambition to offer seven day opening.

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