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Government risks 'over-promising' on seven-day GP access, warns Tory MP

The Government risks ‘over-promising and under-delivering’ with its £50m pilots of extended and weekend GP opening, says a prominent Tory MP.

Dr Sarah Wollaston, member of the House of Commons Health Select Committee, MP for Totnes in Devon and a former GP, said that while the pilots for extended access might work in the cities, the model may not be suitable, or deliverable, in rural areas.

Announcing them as ‘big splash policy’ leads patients across the country to believe these services may be available to them, and so the Government risks over-promising and under-delivering, she told Pulse at the Conservative party conference in Manchester.

She said: ‘The trouble with big splash policy announcements- and I haven’t seen the detail of this one- is that sometimes you can end up diverting resources into pilots that work within the cities, but that wouldn’t work within a two partner rural practice in Dartmoor, such as the one I was working at.’

She added: ‘Pilots are a good thing, but we can risk over promising and under delivering if we promise that this model is going to be available throughout the country to everyone. There are difficulties with that because there isn’t a one size fits all with general practice.

‘If we just roll it out within a few major centres and we aren’t saying how practically this could work within other areas I don’t think it addresses the underlying issues and it can risk diverting funding, unless that funding is available to all practices.’

She also said she was ‘surprised’ that the health secretary had not consulted her, as a former GP, when drafting the policy.

She added that although there are issues with GP access that the profession is ‘ready to address’, the Government was wrong to scapegoat GPs over rising A&E attendances.

She said: ‘The single biggest actor in attending A&E is the distance a person lives from A&E and there are other nuanced issues, for example when people arrive in this country from a country where there isn’t a tradition of general practice they simply don’t know there are other ways of accessing out of hours.

‘So the solution will vary depending on what part of the country you live in, and what the particular issues are around over inappropriate use of A&E in those areas. There was also a change in the data which can give a misleading impression.’

She added that there was a rising complexity of cases in A&E and this was affecting the length of time patients spent there.

‘To scapegoat one group was a mistake,’ she said. ‘Of course there are issues around GP access which the public want us to address and which general practice are ready to address. You can’t do that properly without also looking at the workforce crisis.’

Earlier this year the health secretary admitted that the GP workforce shortage needs to be addressed, after being confronted by Dr Wollaston on the issue.

Readers' comments (18)

  • Bob Hodges

    Tah-dah!!!

    "She also said she was ‘surprised’ that the health secretary had not consulted her, as a former GP, when drafting the policy."

    ...and THAT ladies and Gentlemen is ALL you actually need to know about Jeremy **** and Tory Health Policy.

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  • Who had Jeremy Hunt spoken to about this "big splash policy"?
    I understand that the NHS is so generously funded that there won't be a problem finding the funding from existing NHS budgets..
    Has anyone learned from the Access DES? get it going - and as soon as it is in place, slash the funding for it?
    "Pilots" going to instant rollout (111 model) just are neither safe - nor attractive.

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  • I second the above, wholeheartedly. Please please please somebody rally a group to show some backbone on these issues.

    I am a gp trainee and rapidly wishing I was not.

    The reason everyone lies down and takes this cr*p is that we are all too busy trying to do right by our patients in this over-worked and hugely under-resourced system. Maybe doing right by them in the long run would be doing right by General Practice as a profession first, instead of letting it get mutilated like this....?

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  • Peter Swinyard

    Sarah - you CANNOT be consulted. You're an EXPERT. Didn't you ever watch "Yes Minister"?

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  • YAY for Sarah!

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  • well done Sarah for speaking out on our behalf. Its feeling really bad to be a GP at the moment -blamed for everything, expecting to deliver to everyone, all of the time
    All best

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  • Surely the idea of a pilot study is to see if it flies. If it crashes then who would want to roll it out?
    Never mind Sarah Wollaston, who consulted the GPC??

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  • WE are a bunch of ninnies. The fault is not in our stars Brutus, but in ourselves we are underlings.
    The GPC should ballot the profession. Do we stay in this total rubbish of imposed Contracts, discriminatory pension cuts, rising workloads and falling pay? Or do we go like the dentists. Give me one reason why we stay.

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  • I am shocked, Sarah, that you were surprised on not being consulted. That's because you know something about medicine.

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  • Vinci Ho

    It is called hypocrisy , my love and by the way , you should now know how dirty politics can become.
    When you are working for bosses like that , I would step away and resign from this party. Yes , you might think you can still 'influence ' but what is the reality ?
    ' those with no virtue holding power in high positions spread evil through the most ...' Quote from Mencius , ancient China.
    Look at the way the 'tongue and throat ' paper of your party tackling the opposition leader by bringing his father out of grave.(though I am absolutely no fan of this guy)
    Save the halo on your head while you still can , my love. You are still a Jedi , I believe......

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