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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)

  • pathetic centrist diktats with no common sense.

    This is an 'add on' to the two struggling pillars of general practice and OOH and helps neither because its soaking up available locums. It puts up the price of locums hurting both GP surgeries needing them and OOH trying in vain to fill gaps. Someone should tell the public they can see a doctor to get a non urgent BP check at the weekend but forget it if they need a doctor for an emergency. You could not make this nonsense up !

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  • Cobblers

    You cannot let inconvenient facts get in the way of nice "soundbite" policy.

    7 day GP availability. That'll wow the punters.

    Why exercise what little grey matter we, as politicians have, when we are head full of Brexit.

    There is truly nothing that cannot be made worse by politicians.

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  • Since when have the government engaged in evidence based decisions. Those are only enforced on us!!

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  • Let common sense prevail

    What is the cost per appointment compared with in-hours?

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  • This "commitment" should be mothballed until Good Evidence demonstrates that it is excellent "value for money" and actively assists recruitment and retention of GP's!

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  • Cobblers, you are almost there lol You're right, almost everything that the state intervenes in, it makes worse. Therefore, you should plump for whichever party wants to have the smallest state possible. Which ones I hear you ask? The ones on the right. Who want to place the interests of British citizens first. And I mean the real ones, not the fake 'conservative' party.

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  • Hi Christopher,
    Do you do a 24hr shift over there at Tory/BNP HQ?
    There is more evidence to support the fact that underfunding the state makes it worse.
    And also private intervention into state health/education/social care makes it worse- although it does help the shareholders at least.

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  • Hey Angus, nah I dissed the Tories, who are centrist at most, and I'm talking about the right, not the far right. 'Underfunding the state'? so you're for MORE taxation? Clearly you haven't realised that people who spend others' money spend it less responsibly. What's your evidence that private intervention aka free market forces in health/education/social care makes it 'worse'? And what is your definition of 'worse'? Competition is what drives quality, and people compete only for profit/self-interest. Private schools achieve higher academics than public schools, free market health provision in places like Singapore achieve overall better health, and lack of state social care allows for increased familial responsibility and growth of charities/altruistic organisations. I would agree with minimal state regulation of these sectors at most.

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  • I think you ought to move to the States Christopher. You'd be happier there.

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  • A little harsh to paraphrase -- "you don't like it here so go away". Just the kind of sentiment oft expressed by the BNP. As I sit in my consulting room on my Dell PC, Ikea chair prescribing GSK drugs and using my Littman Steth I realise that the NHS is made up of a whole bunch or private organisations all being bound together by a notion, a pension scheme and a salary scale. You are right that underfunding is one cause but merely throwing Billions at a government dept will not solve the problem of a system that is free at the point of abuse. Currently the NHS behaves more like a communist bureau (5 year forecasts anyone). I am nervous of a free for all but all I know is that where competition and freedom prevail conditions do improve for the punters. I'm old enough to remember British Rail / Telecom / Leyland.
    It's not just the states that charges most of not all but our system has some fee for entry even a prescription charge, 83% of our patients don't even pay that and if you look at the names on the returned unopened boxes you'll realise that the worst non compliers are the ones that get it gratis.
    That which has no cost has no value.

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