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GPC 'happy to discuss' extended GP opening hours, says Nagpaul

Exclusive The GPC would be ‘happy to discuss’ an extension to current GP opening hours where ‘appropriate’, Pulse can reveal.

The Government has pledged seven-day GP appointments for all by 2020 but GPC chair Chaand Nagpaul has previously said this was a ‘political pipe dream’ which ‘must be abandoned’.

In an exclusive interview with Pulse, Dr Nagpaul said the GPC is ‘not entertaining’ the way in which the Government is implementing seven-day opening but that it would discuss ‘some level of approprate extended opening hours’.

He said this would likely entail GP practices spreading the burden by offering extra appointments jointly via networks of practices but that the GPC would be opposed to rolling it out in areas with ongoging recruitment problems.

Asked under what circumstances he would support seven-day opening, Dr Nagpaul said: ‘We’re not entertaining the way in which the government is implementing seven-day opening. What we are saying is that we’re happy to have a discussion around some level of appropriate extended opening hours, especially within a networked arrangement.

According to Dr Nagpaul, the stance is based on the opinions of grassroots GPs but comes with the caveat that it has to be ‘properly resourced’ and not become a ‘luxury service’ where it was not a clinical priority.

He said: ‘That’s the response we have got from GPs on the ground, that this something they are not adverse to looking at, but the idea of opening on a Sunday afternoon when there isn’t need is something we would not be supporting.

‘It has to be appropriately resourced and logistically possible. If you have an area that’s suffering recruitment problems, the priority there should be to secure core general practice services, not divert those services into what could be seen as a luxury service. So we do need to be sensitive about this, tailor it to local needs and not have a blanket approach.

The comments come after health secretary Jeremy Hunt alienated GPs and hospital doctors alike with comments earlier in the summer claiming the lack of seven-day access was leading to higher death rates on the weekend - claims at which the BMA has since fiercely hit back by accusing the Government of focusing on grabbing headlines rather than improving the NHS.

Mr Hunt’s comments, which included a claim he had ‘never met’ a doctor who did not want seven-day working, have now prompted over 200,000 signatures to a petition for his removal from office, have also been used by healthcare recruiters to attract doctors to leave the NHS and come work ‘four-day weeks’ overseas.

A Pulse investigation revealed that a quarter of seven-day opening pilots have already cut hours due to a lack of demand and NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has admitted that there is ‘no point’ funding seven-day appointments where there is no uptake.

Readers' comments (33)

  • How to ensure the recruitment crisis gets worse - so many of us in our 50s will have none of this nonsense and we'll be off. I feel sorry for the youngsters.

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  • The profession is betrayed once again by those who are supposed to reflect/represent GP's at the coalface. The BMA GPC should hang their heads in shame. We all know that the tail is wagging the dog. I have no regrets in cancelling my membership to both BMA and RCGP, both ineffectual hand wringing talking shops!

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  • The real issue is that GPs, quite appropriately, do not feel that health care should become like any other consumeristic service I.e. If you want it you can have it. The NHS is set up to provide a level of care that does not have the finance to allow patients to have what ever they want. Politicians do not understand this, or maybe they do and are deliberately trying to destroy the NHS so that there is then an excuse for private health care to take over.

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  • Question
    As far as I know there is no other health care service in the world that has so many severely overworked, stressed, unhappy workers. Of course the media play along and make out that all health care workers are lazy and that NHS managers are useless. So why is the Government demanding more and more from them?

    Answer
    To deliberately destabilise the system. Then there will be an excuse to privatise health care.

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  • When was the consultation with GPs about what we want? This Union needs to remember dealing with the Government isn't like negotiating with a patient.

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  • Can The Pulse do us a favour: reveal to us as to how many face to face patient contacts our 'influential'GPs have in an average working week.
    The sad reality, and I agree for practical reasons, is that most of the GPs who are in negotiating positions are not facing the lives of a normal working GP and hence not in the best position to decide for us and our patients.
    It takes a great leader to speak the language of a common man. I'm still looking.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    " ‘happy to discuss’ extending access,"

    Sounds like the sort of thing Judas Iscariot might have said.

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  • I can see the logic( as Chand is a reasonable man )in not taking an "obstructive NO" policy position, given the co-ordinated media spin that is put out whenever the BMA try to draw a firm line for negotiations- remember the Miners strike?

    This has to be balanced against the fact you cannot "negotiate" with an utterly unreasonable party in any meaningful way.
    The utter unreasonableness of the government demand is not getting the coverage it requires in the lay press at present.
    Second point.
    The BMA and GPC articles require a minimum of one clinical session a week in the area of representation to claim a clinical basis- for those who asked- but please remember the role is "medical politicians" and I would expect my representative to be a" full time politician" in the negotiations to stand a chance against a Nation State resources.
    As with 1969 this situation will only change if the profession is united in taking a strong action against this demand; the support for the BMA industrial action that was called was underwhelming to say the least.

    Sorting any percieved "Leadership" issue is relatively easy and utterly futile- it is not having mass united ranks following that is the weak spot.

    I would strongly contend its a "Back Em, Not Sack Em" moment.

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  • I'm a rare breed who has done the management job (doing 1 day a week as a GP) and gone over to 'the dark side' and come back again-I'm now a partner again although still keep my management role going-and you know what? Now I get it, I really get it-we can't continue like this. I've just returned from the same conference to find out another of our partners has resigned (going in March), one going on maternity leave and a further space we can't recruit to in a practice of 17.5K 7 day access?-we cannot even manage 5 day access!!

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