GPs involved in a seven day access pilot scheme are being paid £100 an hour to see patients in the evenings and at weekends.
Dr Gurdip Hear, a senior GP partner at the Crosby House Surgery in Slough, told Pulse that the hourly rate of £100 had been agreed between Slough CCG and local GPs as a ‘reasonable ballpark figure’ for the costs of providing GP services up until 8pm, seven days a week.
Funding for the extended hours scheme comes from the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund, a £50m pot that is being used to pay for pilots of seven-day GP access in 20 areas across England. Practices participating in these pilots have been awarded money to make their services more accessible, which in most cases involves providing GP services from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.
Slough’s pilot scheme, ‘Steps to the Future’, was awarded £2,950,000 to provide both pre-booked appointments and drop-in services from 8am to 8pm every day of the week, as well as a text-messaging service and sessions in local schools led by GPs or practice nurses. The 16 practices involved in the pilot scheme have committed to providing extra 48,000 appointments per year via four clusters in different parts of Slough.
One practice, the Upton Medical Partnership, declined to take part in the pilot citing overwork during core hours as a reason, but the pilot is fully manned during all extended hour shifts.
Dr Hear said: ‘I’m doing 12 hours this weekend, and my wife’s not happy – but as a result I’ve booked myself a holiday to Spain in half term, because I need to spend some time with the kids and this is one way of forcing myself to go.’
But GP leaders have warned that the Government’s significant initial investment in extended hours may be at the expense of existing out-of-hours services.
Dr John Rawlinson, chair of Berkshire LMC, told Pulse that it was ‘difficult to see the difference’ between extended hours and ‘a better-run out of hours service’.
He added: ‘If a doctor is working Monday to Friday, and then there’s a request for them to work Saturday and Sunday – shifts that are already covered by out of hours – you have to remember that seven-day working comes with millions of pounds of investment. Which shift would you choose?’
If re-elected, Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to roll out seven day working across the whole of England, pledging £400m per year over five years in ‘set-up costs’.
GPs have reacted angrily, with over 100 signing an open letter to Mr Cameron demanding that the PM ‘do the maths’. The letter explains that the extended hours pilots have failed to deliver reduced A&E attendances, and in many areas have yet to begin.
Signatories to the Resiliant GP group’s letter said: ‘You have pledged an extra £100m for this increase in hours. This equates to 1.1% increase in primary care funding for a 60% increase in workload. Do the maths, as your advisors obviously can’t. Forget the rhetoric and the arguments about doctor salaries, this fairy tale is simply not deliverable.’