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Labour: '600 fewer practices' offering extended hours under coalition

GP access has declined under the Coalition Government as almost 600 fewer practices are participating in the extended access enhanced service, the Labour Party has claimed.

Official statistics cited by the party showed that the proportion of GP practices taking up the DES in 2013/14 had fallen to 72%, compared to 77% when it was introduced in 2009.

According to Labour’s calculations, 590 fewer practices were offering appointments on weekday evenings or weekends compared with when the Coalition Government was formed in 2010.

The Department of Health contested the statistics which they said failed to account for practices offering extended hours access through the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund. With the majority of these schemes not having started almost five months into 2014/15 these would not form part of the statistics quoted by Labour.

A Labour Party statement said: ‘Labour’s extended hours scheme enabled GP evening and weekend opening at 77% of surgeries by July 2009. Yet, David Cameron cut the scheme’s funding from £3.01 to £1.90 for every registered patient and removed the 48-hour appointment guarantee from the NHS Constitution – labelling it “no longer a priority”’.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: ‘After five years of David Cameron, patients at hundreds of surgeries can no longer get a GP appointment when they need one.

‘At the last election, he promised to open GP surgeries seven days a week but the reality is that millions more patients are unhappy with opening hours. It is now harder to get an appointment from Monday to Friday too.’

Labour election poster

Responding to a parlimentary question, health minister Dr Daniel Poulter said: ‘In 2013/14 over 70% GP practices were recorded as taking part in the extended hours scheme meaning patients can access a GP outside core hours at a time that is more convenient for them.

‘As part of a separate scheme, over 1,100 practices are participating in the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund looking at innovative ways of improving access to over 7.5 million patients and stimulating innovative ways of providing primary care services. More pilots will run in 2015/16 benefiting millions more patients.’

Commenting on the debate, RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘It goes without saying that access to GP services is extremely important, but prioritising evening and weekend access over everything else can mean that in-hours services suffer and patients often end up worse off.

‘Rather than putting more pressure on our already struggling workforce, politicians of all parties should focus on ensuring that general practice receives a much greater share of the NHS budget and that ambitions to boost GP numbers are realised.’

Readers' comments (13)

  • Ballbags

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  • Lies, dammed lies and statistics....

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  • Burnham - yet another politician confusing "want" with "need".
    Note to all politicians - there aren't enough GPs for this and imposing 7 day routine opening is hardly the way to address the recruitment and retention difficulties.

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  • They seriously need to free the NHS from political meddling.Do to it what they did with the Bank of England.

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  • BEING A GP IS CRAP, IT IS THE CRAPPIEST JOB I CAN THINK OF IN MEDICINE AND THE MEDICAL STUDENTS HAVE COTTONED ON TO THIS....ALL THIS "IT IS AN HONOUR CRAP THAT WE HAVE BEEN FED SINCE MEDICAL SCHOOL"....ARE WE SOFT IN THE HEAD...... THE GOVERNMENT FEED THIS SAME "STOOL" TO THE POOR SOLDIERS WHO HAVE NO LEGS AFTER COMING BACK FROM WAR ZONES.....WHAT A BLOODY HONOUR!!.....WELL YES PATIENT EXPECTATION HAS GONE UP AND GUESS WHAT, SO HAS DOCTOR EXPECTATION.....YOUNG DOCTORS DON'T WANT THIS "SELF-HARMING" WAY OF LIFE....AND I DON'T BLAME THEM.

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  • Vinci Ho

    The only bit of the truth of the extended hours scheme under the coalition was the significant reduction in funding per patient head , hence the feasibility of delivering...

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  • @Anonymous | GP Partner | 07 April 2015 12:58pm

    Are we having a bad day?Should have taken an extended Easter break like most of my colleagues :-)

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  • So glad the BMJ 'no more games' campaign is working

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  • Simon Ruffle

    Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. - WILLIAM BRUCE CAMERON

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  • Both Parties are treating the GP service like a political football and making promises which can never be fulfilled. The BMA must now come out publically and rubbish all these claims and promises and tell the voters that politicians have ruined General Practice as a career.

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