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Benefits of GP access policies are ‘unclear’



The impact of political pledges to boost GP access through extended hours or 48 hour appointment targets remain ‘unclear’ and should be more robustly questioned by the public, an analysis has concluded

A BMJ analysis of political pledges to improve GP access, currently being touted by both Labour and the Conservatives in the run up to the 2015 general election, has highlighted the lack of pilot evidence to demonstrate the plans will be effective or achievable.

The analysis calls into question whether pledges are based on what’s best for the NHS or if they are simply electioneering.

It states: ‘The aims and rationale of the policies outlined by the Conservative and Labour parties do not seem explicit. One aim is undoubtedly to win election votes. But the aims for the NHS and for patients are less clear.’

The analysis questions whether the Conservatives’ aim of providing seven-day access or Labour’s policy of guaranteed GP appointments within 48 hours will reduce pressure on other services.

It states: ‘It is unknown whether improvements in access to general practice over time are associated with reduced use of other services, or indeed health outcomes and healthcare costs. The unintended effects, which may include supply induced demand, are also unclear.

The analysis also notes that ‘interpersonal’ elements of care, such as continuity with your preferred GP, are most strongly associated with satisfaction, and patients will often forgo more greater access in order to see their preferred GP.

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said of the findings: ‘It is disappointing that despite the promises made at the start of the general election campaign, politicians are continuing to play games with the future of GP services rather than working on long term solutions to the challenges facing patient care.

‘This BMJ study reinforces the BMA’s concerns that evidence is lacking behind current political pledges and that there is little likelihood of achieving the increases in GP numbers proposed within the next Parliament.’

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