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GP appointments will be unattainable in five years’ time, Labour warns



Patients will be hard-pressed to see a GP ‘at all’ in five years’ time if the current UK Government is re-elected this May, the Labour Party has claimed upon launching a four-month campaign to ‘save the NHS’.

A dossier of NHS statistics compiled by the party said that if the current trends continue then by 2020 over 20 million patients will be left waiting for a week or more to see a GP or not even be able to get an appointment.

Meanwhile Labour’s plan for the health service – which includes a £2.5 billion per year investment in the NHS to, among other things, train 8,000 more GPs – would ‘guarantee a GP appointment within 48 hours, and on the same day for those who need it’, the party said.

The pledge from the Opposition comes despite the plans for a resurrection of the 48-hour GP appointment target coming under heavy fire from GP leaders when announced last year.

The dossier said: ‘[T]he Tory-led Government has made it harder to see your GP. One in four people now wait a week or more to see or speak to a GP, and a recent survey found 60% of people saying they waited longer than 48 hours for a GP appointment.

‘Based on the past five years, if the Tories are allowed to carry on as they have been, another five years would make the NHS unrecognisable, putting it on course for… [o]ver 20 million people waiting a week or more for a GP appointment, or unable to get one at all.’

Launching the campaign, Douglas Alexander, Labour’s chair of election strategy, said: ‘Today we are launching a four month campaign to make clear that our health service as you know it won’t survive another five years of [Prime Minister] David Cameron. The Tories are already breaking half of the waiting time guarantees to patients enshrined in the NHS Constitution, including on cancer and A&E.

‘A Tory second term would put us on course for ever-longer waits for patients because they have no plan to give the NHS the cash it needs and want to take public spending back to 1930s levels. And another five years of this rotten government could put us on course for a doubling of the scale of privatisation as competition is put before patient care.

‘That is why the NHS is on the ballot paper at this election. And that is why we will work morning, noon and night to save it.’

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised that by 2020 everyone will be able to access a GP practice seven days a week – from 8 ‘til 8 – if the Conservative Party wins the general election.

Labour has also pledged to remove competition aspects from the Health and Social Care Act if they regain power.