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Gold, incentives and meh

Why won’t the Government listen to evidence on seven-day GP access?

Sofia Lind

PULSE team blog logo

PULSE team blog logo

PULSE team blog logo

The Government wants to make sure the policy of making GPs open seven days a week ‘works’ before deciding on its future, or so we are told.

It is currently tied to a flagship manifesto of ensuring evening and weekend appointments for all by April next year, although NHS England asked CCGs to roll it out from this month to be on the safe side.

But the policy has been rolled out gradually for years, with availability for 50% of the population targeted by March this year, and as such is already in place in vast number of areas.

As such, an explosive Pulse investigation was able to show earlier this month that a quarter of the evening and weekend appointments remain empty.

Not only are these shocking figures (in the words of RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard), they are also exactly the same as the findings of the Government’s own evaluation of the pilots that ran already back in 2014/15.

We were able to sneak a very brief chat with health secretary Matt Hancock about the policy last week whilst attending the Best Practice conference in Birmingham.

Asked whether he would consider scrapping the policy, Mr Hancock responded that the Government remains ‘committed’ to it. However, he added that he wanted to ensure it does work.

He told Pulse: ‘It was a key manifesto commitment to which we are committed - but I want to make sure it works.'

GP leaders have called for the policy to be altered to stop local commissioners being mandated to offer appointments which have little take up, especially in light of core-hours appointments being fully utilised with average waiting times of around two weeks.

But Mr Hancock refused to be drawn on what would happen should he finally decide once and for all that actually the policy doesn’t work - only adding once more that he wants ‘to make sure it works’.

Our question remains: isn’t the whole point of pilots to ensure policies work before politicians implement them?

Sofia Lind is the Pulse news editor

Readers' comments (13)

  • Sorry BAP. I was merely expressing that he might be more at home where his expressed sentiment is widely accepted. Which it is not here.
    We are a very rich country with widening inequalities with tax levels which have been lowering steadily since 1979- especially corporate. Add in an ageing population and the answer is - yes- more taxation is required to support the NHS.
    Competition is what drives quality. Really? Capita??

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  • Sadly we may feel rich but we have a 1.5 trillion debt. Just add I began to believe it wasn't real I saw what the troika did to Greece. There was no competition for crapita it was cronyism but I take your point. There are equally many areas where competition is a great thing. Dropping tax to reasonable levels increases take. Ramping up taxes won't increase the take. The NHS needs to change its it's a black hole for cash with little benefit to the end user.

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  • Angus, I would go if I could, but there are other factors keeping me here. And I haven't given up hope on the UK yet. Rich? I was about to say what BAP has already said. We are in huge debt which is increasing every year. Widening equalities? That's the result of socialism and state intervention. Capita is not real competition. Competing for state funds is not competition. Competing for direct funding from the customer is real competition. By the flip of the coin, Angus, why don't you go to Venezuela or North Korea? You might be happier there.

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