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Tory GP says seven-day general practice pledge ‘completely unrealistic’

Conservative MP and former GP Dr Sarah Wollaston has publicly confronted the Government on its pledge for routine seven-day general practice by 2020, calling it ‘completely unrealistic’.

Dr Wollaston, who chairs the House of Commons health committeee, said the focus of introducing a seven-day NHS had to be to reduce avoidable deaths rather than the ‘convenience’ of patients. She said this was not a realistic priority with the size of the current GP workforce.

The Conservative Government has pledged to provide routine seven-day a week access to GPs for everyone by 2020.

Via Twitter, Dr Wollaston said: ‘Given the scale of workforce shortfall in primary care, seven-day GP service as presented to the public looks completely unrealistic to me I’m afraid.

‘We don’t have enough GPs to be able to prioritise convenience, seven-day access priority should be reduce avoidable deaths/late diagnosis/admission.’

The tweets come as Dr Wollaston made similar remarks in an exclusive interview with Pulse before the general election.

The health committee has just launched an inquiry into general practice, due to take evidence during the autumn, the scope of which includes considering plans for seven-day access.

Defending the seven-day policy last week, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said GPs had to consider patients in manual labour on hourly wages who could not take time out of work without sacrificing salary.

Readers' comments (32)

  • Good on ya Sarah!

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  • Im beginning to feel like a manual labourer too.

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  • Chief, get out of your wigwam and look at reality - there are lesser numbers of GPs in the field and they also cannot take time out to see their GPs or even spend time with their families without sacrificing salary.
    We know your aim is to chase everybody out so United Health can come into action, but please think again - Is it worth going over dead bodies to pursue a misconceived plan and ruining a great cost effective system that the world looked up to?

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  • Be grateful that it is Sarah Wollaston and not the awful Simon Stevens who has real influence. Anyway I have gone part-time now and so have more or less completely given up caring about these dreadful people any more and it feels marvellous. Strongly recommended to all 50 somethings out there.

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  • Bob Hodges

    This is a welcome diversion from the rest of the Conservatives' public utterances on health and the NHS which have recently achieved the level of 'Peak Bullshit'.

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  • Nothing will change .Conservatives have got majority .They think they have the power to do anything!!!

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  • Took Early Retirement

    If people are ILL , then they will not be at work. Simple really. Interesting that the Tories are suddenly interested in "poor" people? The never have been before.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Ok . You can fight against the nonsense from inside the establishment . Exactly what can you do to make your party comrades like Darth Vader , GO, Agent Hunt and Harvey Dent , change their bigotry on this ego which can potentially wipe out general practice in NHS once and for all .(Perhaps that is their agenda anyway!)
    The longer you stay in this party , the dimmer and dimmer is the halo on the top of your head, my dear former Jedi.......

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  • Dear Sarah,

    Please tell Jezza. Again and again until his ears bleed. Tattoo the phrase "completely unrealistic" into his forehead with a rusty compass. Make him recite 1000 times "we don't have enough GPs even to maintain current services" to the Tory Party Conference. Then get the DM to print 30 pages of apologies every day for a year.

    Then finally you might have achieved something.

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  • Well done Sarah. Sensible and measured. Staying inside the tent and speaking truth unto power, a proper GP even though she is now an MP.
    What has happened to the petition to Parliament to remove agent Hunt?

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  • Respect for speaking out

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  • I had an email this morning say the Hunt no confidence vote for Agent Hunt is set for this Monday. Lobby your MP!

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  • Vinci Ho

    Yes.
    Show your colour if that is the colour you claim.......

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  • Although the above is welcomed but where were you prior to general election when 'unrealistic promises were pledged'?

    I still sincerely thank you for supporting grassroot GPs.
    Convenience costs: in terms of stress, further recruitment problems and financially.

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  • Ivan Benett

    She's wrong. Setting the NHS in the first place was 'unrealistic' and resisted by the profession. Where there's a political will there's a way. May be not tomorrow, but we should aim for a much better Primary Care service by 2020...and yes (wearily) it will need more GPs and nurses, before anyone says it.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Somebody needs to stop this disguised displacement of concept. What we mean 'unrealistic' is based the current political situation and the distrust on this government's commitment in actually funding this otherwise irresponsible promise. This is ultimately jeopardising even the current five days service .
    As I always said: It is only a fine line between politically correct diplomacy and dangerously flawed hypocrisy.
    This GDP obsessed government is not to be trusted to deliver national health services . Full stop.

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  • No Ivan. You're wrong. You and your fellow outliers are falling for a long tried and tested government trick. 1) set an unrealistic target 2) announce your firm commitment to achieving it at all costs 3) rely on GP's to run around in circles federating and saying in panicked voices, "it is happening, we must be ready, if we don't do it ourselves it will do imposed, and that will be much worse 4) hence GP's hang themselves in fear of imposition of something worse, facilitating what was asked of them. I have seen this trick many times. But this time feels different. GPs, with some exception like your good self, are genuinely indignant and are leaving in droves rather than play this game. They are calling the bluff. So Ivan, you may want to comply and go along with this in the name of service improvement, but you're among the first out of the trench, with very few behind you. I'll be on the beach aged 57 and Jeremy Hunt can kiss my gluteus. Resistance folks. It's the only way.

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  • Couldn't agree with the above poster more.

    In particular, the we must do it because it will be imposed / we must jump because they will push us comments.

    Absolutely true.

    If HMG want service design, deliver the money and doctors FIRST. Then we can talk.

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  • Watching Sarah and the other ex-NHS members of the committee grill Mr Stevens the other day was quite remarkable. He was given little quarter, and told in no uncertain terms that it was not sustainable to make all the changes planned. SoS was actually pretty good, but Prof Field was utterly shambolic with him.

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  • This comment has been moderated.

  • Take a look at the article on Pets At Home on the HSJ site - this & Specsavers is where our proffesion will end up. Branded joint venture partnerships.

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  • The majority of GP's work just a few hours per week, if they worked full time in their own practice there wouldn't be a shortage of GP's.

    Patients have always had a seven day service, what they really want is to have that service delivered in one place, which simply cannot happen.

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  • Anonymous | Other healthcare professional | 09 September 2015 12:17pm
    "The majority of GP's work just a few hours per week, if they worked full time in their own practice there wouldn't be a shortage of GP's"

    The majority of GPs work hugely long hours completely stressed out and burdened down with ever more meaningless, unachievable government led nonsense. They don't just work full time in their practice dealing with the non-stop demands there, they then have to deal with endless CQC, CCG, LAT, NHSE bureaucracy. If they only worked a few hours a day, why would the profession be in crisis as it surely is now? It takes huge amounts of skill and dedication to become a GP in the first place - so why would they be walking away from the profession in their droves if it was just "a few hours a week"? We'd all be clamouring to be a GP!

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  • Ivan

    its people like you who are enablers that make this kind of thing happen.

    I would modify your phrase to:-

    where there's a political way and a Yes man who's willing to backstab his compatriots, there will certainly be a way.

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  • How come the Daily Mirror are reporting Jeremy Hunt will face the much anticipated no confidence debate on Monday, but this self-styled GP-bible organ is not? Pull your ruddy finger out, Pulse. We all need good news.

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  • 107: agree, this is rather analogous to the NUM/UDM split in the 84/85 Miners Strike. Ivan and the outliers will keep the lights on while the government beat the rest of us up. And the result? Well, when did you last see a miner? The enablers are feeding the crocodile in the hope it eats them last, to paraphrase. Insane.

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  • Its a disgrace that RCGP is doing nothing.Impotent organisation.Just want to do make money by taking membership fees.

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  • It will happen. GP will change. Goodbye continuity, hello not 5000 GPs but rather primary care staffed by Nurse Practitioners, HCAs and PAs. When this generation of 50 something GPs retire "trad" GP will cease to exist. Patient's will never see anying that knows them, referral rates will rise as will overall costs. I'm going at 55, 7 years to go. Doubt my job will be recognisable after that.

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  • Samuel Lewis

    Too right, sarah. And we are NOT persuadex there are ANY excess deaths avoidable by Bruce Keogh's shoddy statistics.. see http://www.bmj.com/content/351/bmj.h4596/rapid-responses

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  • well done sarah...all is forgiven
    another ridiculous post from ivan in my humble view

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  • "Goodbye continuity, hello not 5000 GPs but rather primary care staffed by Nurse Practitioners, HCAs and PAs."

    Actually, the very best ANPs, the ones that representted a huge opportunity to relieve at least some of the pressure on over-worked GPs by seeing people with minor illnesses and the "worried well", are leaving or retiring at an even faster rate. Most are already gone, leaving aspiring PNs who call themselves ANPs but haven't a Masters degree... last one out, turn off the lights, please.

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  • I resigned as a partner last year, and now work in a chambers. I thought that the one thing I would miss was continuity, but it has all but gone already. This government is placing convenience as a priority over continuity but is in danger of throwing out the baby with the bath water and losing what is best about our GP service. What worries me is that when i need the services of the NHS for chronic disease what I have valued for so long will have disappeared

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  • I attended one of the select committee gp focus groups . Great listening skills Sarah. I do hope when your report is published that the powers that be will take some notice.
    I am not convinced they will .

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