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PM's seven-day access scheme is 'just another vote winner', says CCG leader

A CCG leader has criticised the Government’s flagship seven-day GP access scheme, claiming that it is ‘just another vote winner’.

Speaking at the Commissioning Live conference in Manchester today, Dr Joe McGilligan, chair of NHS East Surrey CCG, said there won’t be enough funding to sustain the seven-day patient access.

In a separate event, Dr Mark Spencer – a GP and deputy regional medical director for NHS England (London) area team – said that focusing on increasing patient access at the expense of continuity of care would ‘make things worse rather than better’ for patient care and put more pressure on A&E departments.

Their comments come after Prime Minister David Cameron announced last year the launch of a £50m ‘Challenge Fund’ for 1,000 GP practices to pilot seven-day opening – which was rolled out in some areas earlier in the year – while last month GPs were invited to submit bids to receive a share of an extra £100m as part of the second wave of the pilots to provide extended hours and improve GP access.

When this funding runs out, CCGs will be expected to fund extended access, and Dr McGilligan’s comments are the most high-profile intervention from a CCG leader on the ground.

Dr McGilligan said patient access is just another pre-election ‘vote winner’.

He added: ‘What is it (better patient access) all about? Is it a vote winner, or is it actually the right thing to do? And it is just a vote winner – something the Government says every year before an election: “We’ll make access to general practice much easier”.

‘We need to ask whose work is being done in primary care? What is increasingly happening is that in order to make savings, the work is then passed back to the GP from secondary care from pharmacists, from district nurses, social workers, carers and relatives – the buck stops at the primary care door to then be sorted out.’

He went on to add that pilots ‘kill innovation’.

He said: ‘The Challenge fund is unfortunately another pilot. “Pilotitis” is a virus that kills innovation. What’s going to happen is that at the end of this pilot when everyone says, “yes this a really good thing”, the money runs out and we have to do it for free again or we have to find another way of funding it.’

Speaking at a Westminster Health Forum event in London today, Dr Spencer said: ‘One piece of evidence that is clear is that the one thing that reduces use of hospital A&E services is continuity of care in general practice. It isn’t about extending hours; seven-day services – I believe – has an important role to play, but it’s actually about continuity of care and how we balance access with increasing continuity that is the most important factor.

‘If we just increase access, and that means more people involved in the patient’s care with less coordination, then we will have made things worse rather than better.’

The £100m worth of new funding is open to any practice or group of practices serving a patient population of more than 30,000, though priority will be given to those who will open from 8am till 8pm, or at weekends.

The investment, announced during the Conservative party conference in September, comes after Pulse revealed that many of first group of pilots had yet to begin, despite funding being due to end in April.

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Readers' comments (6)

  • Vinci Ho

    So Pilotitis virus is another risk parameter Master Yoda should be using ?

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  • these voices need to stand together and make a public announcement to defend primary care against attack from politicians

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  • At last the penny is beginning to drop about the duplicity of politicians. If all CCG Chairmen feel this way let them resign en masse. That would scare Cameron more than UKIP!

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  • Vinci Ho

    Yes . Think about the picture : the day before general election 2015-- all CCG GP commissioners in the country resigned.........

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  • Its not only Political but extremely daft idea .DOH pressuring CCG and Area team to put SRP and other constraints on Primary care and on other side taking QOF money to these Derisory Access issue to few Demand Lead Patients .we are seeing consequences of Darzi centre /walk in centre which CCG is trying to shut down but finding extremely hard .
    Some Gps are doing it for Extra Bucks without realising what a Dis service it is to their colleagues by playing in the hands of politicamns Game .
    If continuity of care has to be seen which is a small practices Model and has maximum patient satsfaction is not acceptable to our Pamasters .
    What a pity we do not value what we have got .

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  • Ivan Benett

    Dr Spencer is right in that continuity of care is the best way to prevent unplanned admissions. But since we gave up 24/7 responsibility there is no longer continutiy of care and I don't want a return to the old days. However, he is less clear about what he means by continuity of care.
    Continuty is not an alternative to access. In fact you can't have continuity without access.
    What you need when you get sick is access to a doctor (or nurse), preferably your own, but at least someone who can access your records.
    I don't hear those advocates of continuity (without extra access) saying they will make themselves available 24/7, on the contrary.
    So we need both access and continuity, which means investing in General Practice, yes more GPs , yes more primary care team, yes access to diagnostics. No, individuals don't need to work extra hours if they don't wan't, although actually many do.
    Finally, 'it's just a vote winner' ddrrr - of course it is! Why the surprise?

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