The Conservative Party has been consulting on the idea of limiting the annual number of appointments a patient can make with their GPs.
The Conservative Policy Forum (CPF), which helps formulate party policy, asked members on its website whether they agree or disagree to a number of controversial statements regarding GP care including the annual limit on GP appointments and penalties for DNAs, as well as questions regarding GPs providing appointments out of hours.
Describing patient demand, the document said: ‘The majority of most individuals’ interactions with the health service come through visits to their local GP, who also acts as a gateway to the rest of the health service. This relationship is essential for a functioning NHS.’
‘However, some GP surgeries are stretched due to an expanding older population. The estimated number of consultations for a typical practice in England rose from 21,100 in 1995 to 34,200 in 2008. In 2008, the highest overall consultation rate occurred in the age band 85 to 89 years for both sexes, at approximately 13 consultations per year. This is in comparison to 5.5 consultations per year for the average patient. GP surgeries must find ways to expand or change the way their service is delivered in order to meet demand.’
But GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul branded the suggestion of an annual appointment limit as ‘absurd’.
He said: ‘We welcome the recognition that attendances in GP surgeries have rocketed to a point where surgeries are having real difficulty with capacity. But to ration access to GPs, I find that an absurd suggestion. It would impact on the most vulnerable patients and create a hugely inequitable system. The Government has to invest in general practice and GP premises to help practices cope with demand.’
The CPF, a national group that gives Conservative Party members the opportunity to ‘discuss major policy challenges facing the country’, has asked for members to submit their opinions by the end of June.