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The waiting game

Routine seven-day general practice is 'for manual workers on hourly wage'

Refusing seven-day routine general practice will enshrine health inequalities in the UK by discriminating against people in manual labour, the chief executive of NHS England has suggested.

Simon Stevens was taking questions at NHS England’s Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester today, when a GP attendee requested ‘an honest debate’ about the lack of financial and workforce resources available to extend GP access beyond the current offer.

But Mr Stevens spoke out in defence of the Conservative Government’s election pledge to roll out seven-day routine access for all, by saying it was necessary to tackle health inequalities.

He told the audience: ‘What we sometimes forget is that yes, we have this debate, this trade-off about the availability of staff to do this. But if you’re a manual worker on an hourly wage who cannot get time off work, or who will forfeit earnings if you have to take the morning off on a weekday to go and wait in a GP surgery - that can lead to people putting off going for needed care.’

He added that although it ‘is not going to be something done in every surgery every weekend’, it was crucial to bridging inequality gaps.

He said: ‘If we are serious about tackling health inequalities we have got to be serious about how we make these services available more generally.’

Mr Stevens comments come after a Pulse investigation revealed that several seven-day pilot sites have already dropped routine weekend appointments because of a lack of demand from patients. But, despite this, Mr Stevens said CCGs should look to emulate extended general practice access that is now being rolled out on a permanent basis in Greater Manchester.

He said: ‘The example that Greater Manchester has set, with their proposition for seven-day access by the end of this year, is an example I think people should take a careful look at.’


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Readers' comments (33)

  • Maybe, for a start, Parliament and the Department of Health should set an example by working 7 days a week.

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  • I think every one wants 24/7 service.i think GPs have no choice but to offer 24/7.otherwise A&e will have to bear the brunt.

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  • 02 September 2015 9:22pm

    there are many choices - RLEP

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  • We have choice. As for A&E having to "bear the brunt" - why? Emergency weekend general practice is available - just needs to be properly funded and promoted instead of being airbrushed out for political reasons. In any event, A&E is far better funded than general practice and don't think that funding will be diverted from secondary to primary care. Quite frankly, I am working at my limit, we are short-staffed and if patients want to waste several hours in A&E on a Sunday for a non-urgent matter instead of seeing me on a Monday, so be it. Just because something could have been handled in primary care doesn't mean it has to be. Without a significant increase in GPs and funding, 7 day opening will worsen 5 day care - this is why we must have a choice and choose wisely.

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  • We are are own worse enemy. My local ccg bid for pm challenge fund monies to start 7 opening. The rate proposed at tender was loss making. Yet despite this there was a queue of partners lining is up to bid for the proposal and an even bigger queue of partners prepared to do sessions! Locums and sessional doctors have been frozen out of this both by the tender specifications and the local federations. And there are further proposals to increase 7 day funding to these providers by decommissioning oohs, local wics and top slicing practices enhanced service income further destabilising the existing primary care structure. Greed does what greed does. Selfish and shocking!

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  • 7 day working is simply a way to get us to do oohs again on the cheap.

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  • More nonsense from simple Simon
    The only reason he is for this is unthinking toadying to his political master.
    Total garbage
    The real issue is employers failing in their duty to allow employers time off for medical care
    But I would expect no better ...he supports the complete insanity of personal health budgets and he has a long history of wrecking the nhs via privatisation in collusion with bliar and milburn
    It is in my view an outrage this man is ceo
    He is pursuing policies that have no mandate and is the smokescreen for their real originator *unt

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  • So nhs is there to subsidy the employers.
    It's not a safety issue,
    I fail to see why tax payers should be paying more to subsidy employers who cant be bothered to look after their workforce .
    The governement should target employers

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  • as usual government going after easy targets - GPs.

    why not grow a pair and sort out the awful UK employment law? enshrine the right to see a health professional with no loss of earnings in employment law. fine companies that don't comply. fine companies that force their employees to see the GP for a 'fit note' after a period of illness which is not needed as per UK employment law.

    oh wait, too much effort. lets just dump it all on GPs again.

    I work 8-6. I do not expect to see my solicitor, hair dresser, plumber, delivery man, etc at 8pm at night, and if I wanted to I'd expect to pay huge amounts for the privilege.

    If these people are unwell and they NEED to see their GP, they shouldn't be at work anyway. stupid government.

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  • If patients were allowed to pay the individual GP top up fee for late night and weekend appointments, then the beneficiaries of this would be the patient, the GPs and the wider health service, as it would draw in more money.
    I might pay extra for me and my family to access this, and I might pay for my employees to access their GPs this way BUT I might not suppor the tax rises that would support this gold plated service for free for the rest of the population.
    It's basic economics - filling in the left of the supply /demand curve by product diferentiation.
    There are more cheap seats overall on flight routes BECAUSE of the expensive seats in the front of the plane, yet all are piloted by the same professional and the safety is the same no matter what seat you sit in.

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