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Independents' Day

GPs 'need to be more flexible' on seven-day working

A House of Commons debate on the Government’s plans for increasing seven-day access in the NHS has heard GPs need to be ‘more flexible’.

Speaking at the debate, Conservative MP for Sutton and Cheam Paul Scully said the seven-day imperative was necessary both for convenience and to reduce pressure on A&E departments.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt did not join the debate, which was prompted by a petition on calling for him to be subject to a vote of no confidence by MPs.

Opening the debate, House of Commons petitions committee chair Helen Jones, Labour MP for Warrington North, said the topic for debate was amended to focus on ‘contracts and conditions’ in the NHS because the committee does not have the power to call for a vote of no confidence.

Bringing up the 2004 renegotiation of the GP contract, Mr Scully said the then-Government’s ‘cav[ed] in to unions’.

This ‘effectively restricted GP services to a five-day service, which provided extra pressure on A&E’, he added.

He said this ‘helped to break the link between the patient and the person who was responsible for their care’ - with elderly people hit hardest as a result.

He said: ‘Obviously GP services can’t just be boiled down to some sort of retail operation, like late-night shopping or Sunday opening or something like that, but nonetheless we do need flexibility’.

Also speaking at the debate, House of Commons health committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston, Tory MP and a former GP, said she hoped ‘the secretary of state will look very carefully at is what [seven-day access] is for’, because financial resources and the GP workforce are not sufficient to prioritise weekend appointments for convenience alone.

She said: ‘I think we all understand that sometimes in our busy lives it is diffucult to take time off work but it might not be the priority when resources are tight, because… I know if we were to try and provide an 8am-8pm service for Saturday and Sundays, for routine GP appontments, the cost of that would be enormous.’

Meanwhile, Ms Jones said that this Government has treated NHS staff ‘badly’, GP services are ‘struggling to cope’ and, although she was talking specifically about consultants at the time, that doctors ‘deserve a decent rate of pay for their skills and their training, and for their responsibility’.

She said: ‘Fortunately for him [Jeremy Hunt], or unfortunately depending on which way you want to look at it, the committee does not have the power to initiate a vote of no confidence and so we decided that we should debate the underlying issue in the petition, which was the contracts and conditions of the NHS staff.’

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  • Jeremy Hunt - online

Readers' comments (37)

  • Instead of continually harping on the stale vision of a 7 day access to Primary Care, maybe for a change Mr Hunt could switch to introducing more transparency in the system. My Open Exeter statements show Fringe details with total deprivation/rurality payment units of 4914 but these are ignored and payment made of only 3580 patients. Nobody knows why. Last year the gentleman in Exeter confirmed changes are being made manually to Exeter data at local PCAs but declined to give this in writing saying ' his boss would not allow it'. This year another wrote a mail saying this needs to be dealt with local PCA.

    I have received four payments from the local Council and NHSE in last month but their is no invoice or statement what they are for so will never find out what I was paid for and whether the whole payment was made.
    Why do we systems which nobody wants to clarify. Or is it a convenient way to avoid making payments for work done or undertaken.
    Mr Hunt, time to consider doing something constructive and throwing light on the dark side of NHS Finances. You have lost control of the monster you created by forming NHSE and time to regain this control by unleashing NHS Fraud.

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  • I have become more flexible - I've gone part time.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Agent Hunt
    IMF is sorry that you have contracted the virus , FOV 220,000 , during your call of duty . Luckily , the virus remains dormant though there is no indication when it will become disseminating . IMF remains focused on its objective of destroying GP and your work so far is well appreciated .
    This message will self destruct in 5 seconds.....

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  • "Broken record" Jeremy Hunt. Saying the same thing over and over but he doesn't want to fund it appropriately.

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  • Its good money if you work 7 days as a locum GP.Why resist 7 days working?

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  • you should be flexible to flush the toilet after poo!!

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  • i'm flexible. I left partnership to locum and work half the year in Canada. ill do weekens shifts for 120 quid an hour if he likes unless the indemnity goes up in which case so will the fee

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  • You can already see a GP 7 days a week round here. There is a fine 18 hour a day GP rota maintained by the local OOH operation on Sat/Sun, and my surgery is open 10 hours a day for the rest of the week. So what exactly are we talking about?

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  • I think on this one, Ivan aside, most GPs will end up just calling his bluff and saying no by voting with their feet. Retire, Leave, Emigrate and there'll only be Ivan left.

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  • And HMG need to be more flexible full stop. Can we move on please?

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