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Labour pledges £100m to reintroduce 48-hour target to see GP

Labour leader Ed Miliband has pledged to end the ‘scandal’ of patients waiting more than a week for a GP appointment and reintroduce a right for patients to see a GP within 48 hours.

Mr Miliband announced that a Labour government would reintroduce the target scrapped in June 2010 for patients to have a guaranteed appointment at their GP surgery within 48 hours.

He also said that patients would gain a right to be seen by a GP on the same day if they need to be seen quickly and be able to book appointments more than 48 hours ahead ‘with the GP of their choice’.

The Labour leader pledged to invest an extra £100m a year in GP practices to pay for an additional 3m GP appointments every year.

He said this additional funding will come from repealing the requirements to use competition in the NHS and cutting back on what he called ‘quangos’, such as Monitor, the Trust Development Authority and Commissioning Support Units.

He said: ‘I can announce the next Labour government will put in place a new set of standards: a same-day consultation with your GP surgery with a guarantee of a GP appointment if you need it that day, a GP appointment guaranteed for all within 48 hours, and the right to book further ahead with the GP of your choice if your priority is to plan ahead or to see your preferred doctor.

‘This will be better for patients, because they have better access to their GP surgery; better for the NHS, because it will save money currently spent in A&E; and better for Britain, because it is the kind of health service we need.’

He added: ‘A quarter of the public now say they can’t get an appointment in the same week. It’s a scandal that people are waiting that long, it is not how our NHS, the pride of Britain, should work.’

He also promised to make the NHS a more integrated service. He said: ‘Our plan for the long-term of the NHS starts by making sure that physical health, mental health and social care – services which have stood apart for too long - work together. Just think of the difference it could make. If a simple grab rail is placed in someone’s hall at home, that can stop a fall that could lead to that person breaking a bone, keeping them out of hospital, saving them the pain and the suffering, and saving the NHS thousands of pounds.’

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said that she welcomed the announcement of more funding for general practice.

But she added: ‘While we welcome Mr Miliband’s announcement it must not be another “sticking plaster” solution but part of a broader, long-term, shift in investment. Ultimately, general practice needs 11% of the NHS budget by 2017 in order to cut waiting times and guarantee safe care for our patients.

‘We particularly welcome Mr Milliband’s pledge to scrap the marketization of the NHS, something our members, across the country, have long said is unworkable and undermining their ability to provide joined-up patient care.

‘The college looks forward to working with politicians from all political parties to discuss how general practice can be funded to provide better and speedier access for patients, in order to take pressure off our hospitals and allow patients to be treated in their communities.’

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the targets were ‘misguided’ and ignored the real crisis going on in general practice.

Dr Nagpaul said: ‘I would very much want to have a discussion with the shadow health secretary Andy Burnham in particular, as I think these suggestions are misguided and are failing to address the fundamental problem which is the crisis in general practice.

‘Issues around 48-hour targets and so on are just an irrelevance. The worst thing you can do when you’ve got a system under pressure, where demand outstrips capacity, is to create such targets that are likely to result in counterproductive, perverse behaviour - this is the last thing we need.’

He added: ‘What is really important is to address the fundamental lack of investment - £100 million is 0.1% of the NHS budget, it’s a tiny sum in the totality of what general practice is expected to deliver.

‘We need to look at the workforce, manage demand and ensure GPs can deliver the most appropriate care within the constraints they have – not stoke up demand that is not achieveable, leads to perverse behaviours and often ends up denying care to those that most need it.’

Meanwhile, commenting on Labour’s plans to overhaul the NHS competition regime, NHS Clinical Commissioners co-chair Dr Steve Kell said: ‘Labour raise[s] some interesting points about competition and we know from our members the unnecessary burden and cost that it can place on the system if it is not used or understood properly.’

‘Clinical commissioners are faced with the decision to tender local services every day, and have found there are a number of practical difficulties with the current system when trying to secure the best outcome for patients. It is sometimes unclear to commissioners whether they are simply free to commission from a market, or whether they have to commission in order to make a market operate.’


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  • Ed Miliband - online

Readers' comments (86)

  • Interesting reading! I am currently at home recovering from major surgery so have plenty of time ( if not the strength!) to think about the NHS.
    someone said 'it is a business' which loosely it is but it can never be profitable due to the out of control nature mainly of the patients who DEMAND to be seen and be given drugs which can quite easily be bought over the counter etc " because it's the NHS" and free in some parts of the UK ( yep, that's working well Wales?!)
    Everyone is banging on about the GPs, Nurses etc but what about the patients themselves? Surely they have a responsibility to weigh up if they even NEED a surgery visit?
    Ed and the rest are clueless and because they want 'the peoples" votes are encouraging them to run to doctors etc for every little thing
    Time to make a stand - for everyone's sake?

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  • A week in politic is a long time...

    But does Miliband really not remember when labour tried this last time; pushing "Advanced Access"?

    Tony Blair getting a grilling on question time my a women who couldn't pre-book?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/vote_2005/frontpage/4495865.stm

    I can just have open surgeries again... Turn up between 8 and 9 am and sit and wait... And you will get seen that day.

    Ok for the unemployed, rubbish for the old, mums with fretful kids, those who work, for prevention ...

    A weakling in politics...

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  • I think it is naive to claim that this won't mean more appointments - I think it likely that we'll see more self-limiting conditions that don't require medical attention. The implications go far beyond managing bookings "more effectively". Some of us have actually been running surgeries for a while now and have a reasonable idea how to offer appointments. It's demand that needs to be addressed rather than encouraged.

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  • @ manager 1.39: unfortunately you do not understand the complexity of appointment systems and demand. Sometimes the weather is great and lots of people have better things to do than see their GP, there are school holidays, bank holidays, flu outbreaks, GPs working part time, doing other none clinical jobs .....
    Patients preferences vary widely, see a GP on the day vs continuity of care. Most practices try and have achieve a compromise between all those factors so that nobody is completely disadvantaged. Politicians and dare I say patients yourself included only ever look at 1 scenario 'theirs' and come up with simplistic solutions which have detrimental effects on others or are undeliverable. Why can't you book an emergency appointment for tomorrow? Because by definition it is not an emergency.
    I wish our job and this appointment task was as simple as managers and politicians think.

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  • The right to see a GP in 48 hrs ( for any problem?) . With the current funding it's just wishful thinking . It's the demographic ,stupid.

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  • My personal view is that non of the politicians have a clue about the running of NHS. They employ 'fat arses' sitting in ivory towers clueless to the real world.
    Some time you do get teh feeling of..'politician talking out of their @latus rectum'
    Why are we drs so stupid...do a mass resignation on same day and walk away..... thsi wil sharpenb the minds of the public and the politicians.

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  • Theres nothing new in whats being said, The wors always fow easily from people who dont understand the work or the demands or the impact of thier comments . Just more politics, pandering to wants and not true needs. Patients with needs are again being squeezed out by people with wnats fed by political speak. There are no spare doctors to meet current demand let alone expand the service, I believe that Ed Milliband needs to grow up and take an adult view of the situation not this child liike perspective.He should be asking "who is giving me this incorrect advice about general practice" But he wont , .

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  • Anonymous | GP Partner | 14 May 2014 7:23pm

    And there lies the problem. My son in tears and considerable distress with a heart-wrenching look of fear on his face every time the pain in his chest peeked seemed pretty urgent to me and in the absence of a GP appointment where do you think I would have gone? There are a lot of GPs like you posting a list of obstacles to 48 hour access and I wonder how many ever actually try to overcome them. I get the feeling you’re all simply waiting for someone to suggest how to do it so you can respond saying that it won’t work! Oddly there are a number of GP's posting that they are already achieving 48 hour access which suggests that it isn’t actually impossible. They surely must have overcome the same obstacles?

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  • Bob Hodges

    "My son in tears and considerable distress with a heart-wrenching look of fear on his face every time the pain in his chest peeked seemed pretty urgent to me"

    Seems urgent to me. As a GP I'm not sure that I could anything about that.

    I'd have gone straight to A&E rather than argue the toss with a receptionist.

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  • Anon manager @8.40 - I think if you read the posts you might see that it is not 48 hour access about which most of us have reservations but 48 hour unlimited access for want, not need at a time when GP numbers are falling yet consultation rate is rising. I agree with Bob Hodges that A&E seems more appropriate for the case you describe. Please don't fall into the trap of thinking "everything to GP (at no additional cost) good and use of A&E (charge per consultation) bad

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