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Independents' Day

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)

  • He should think more about charging patients who can't be bothered to turn up for their booked appoinments

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  • Problem: Demand Supply;
    Bleeding obvious solutions: 1.Stop Stoking Up Demand; 2. Increase supply.
    Problem: Reducing supply;
    Solution: Stop stoking up demand;
    Problem: Demand stoked by politicians; Politicians stoke consumerism; Corporates love consumerism as it makes them money; Corporates love consumerism when politicians stoke it as corporates have a protected market; Politicians love corporates as they deliver consumerism and that delivers votes. All this also applies to other organisiations like FTs who like to behave like corporates and believe they will become them one day.

    Solution: Get the consumerism out of health NOW

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  • Nothing to lose as he's already declared it's his last job (heist?) in Westminster.

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  • Do the normal rules of HR not apply when you work in government?? If any level headed, business minded person employed a distruptive kn**head who continuosly managed to completely pi**off every single customer, alienated the dedicated work force to the point where they walked out, pushed forward idiotic business ideas that were already proven to fail, had not one ounce of common sense and was in essence driving the business into the ground - well lets face it they would be out the door wouldnt they? So how come Hunt is allowed to continue. Surely Cameron's other duties are not taking him that far away he can't see whats happening to our NHS?? Or is it that he chooses not to care. It's OK bashing Hunt - he definitely deserves it but his employers really are the ones who are accountable for allowing it to continue.

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  • mass undated resignations action is not soon enough!
    by the way, had an update from our LMC. Apparently some GPs have been brewing trouble considering mass non payment of CQC fees. So the LMC has informed us by e-mail that such action could be unlawful.
    Honestly, if our own representatives aren't bothered, what hope do we have?

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  • The man is deluded ! unless this is properly resourced and funded, he doesnt have a cat in hells chance of getting 8 - 8 access. And he's going to staff this stupid scheme how exactly? ... #walksoffshakinghead!

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  • Sorry, that's not a fair comment. If something is truly illegal, it's up to our representatives to point that out. They have no alternative.

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  • Well, the evidence he has re weekend opening, and weekend hospital mortality is probably as good as the 'Dodgy Dossier' that led to the invasion of the Irak !

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  • 1
    .build your own coffin
    Do this in your own time...better do it at weekends
    ...not enough yet??
    Pay thousands for tick bix CQC torture and time wasting..

    Dig your own grave.

    Master plan ..uplift availability by around 20%...with diminished resources.
    Really ? It's veyond parody.
    What can be ssid is that this will be his ladt job in public disservice.

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  • 1031 I agree. Then the man will be able to introduce plans for a private/public hybrid. Just what the UK needs.

    No.. that isn't sarcasm. I MEAN it. Typical Communist resistance to the IDEA of competition.

    Get real guys. The country cannot afford the service it wants, so introduce a thriving private sector. ALL GPs would benefit

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