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Just 12% of GPs would consider PM’s seven-day access contract



EXCLUSIVE Just one in eight GPs say they would consider signing up to the Prime Minister’s new voluntary contract to provide routine GP access at weekends and in the evenings, a Pulse survey has found.

More than 900 GPs responded to Pulse’s survey, with 638 (70%) saying they would not consider the contract, which David Cameron said would ‘get rid of the box-ticking and the form filling’, as well as additional funding, in exchange for practices offering routine appointments 8-8, seven days a week and extra funding.

However, 12% of respondents said they would consider the contract, with many GPs said that the defunding of the GMS contract may leave them with little choice.

The contract will be offered to practices or federations with list sizes bigger than 30,000 patients, but there are little details about what it will entail.

Local leaders in Manchester have already agreed to a new contract to be offered to larger practices, which involves an offer for GP partners to be bought out of their premises and has already been well received.

But Pulse’s survey revealed that there is little appetite for any offer to be made by the Government as yet.

GPs against the contract told Pulse that they don’t see how extra routine hours can be delivered with already severely stretched workforce and resources, and that the scheme was about winning over voters rather than achieving evidence-based improvement to care.

Dr David Coleman, a GP in Doncaster told Pulse that widespread adoption of the seven day contract would be ‘foolhardy’ given current under-resourcing, and called for GPs to object en masse.

He said: ‘It is a significant challenge to provide safe and effective routine GP services five days a week. Stretching our limited resources to provide seven day routine services, which are not supported by evidence and have been poorly utilised in pilots, would be foolhardy, and I firmly believe we have to be realistic and stand united on this issue.’

Dr Eithne MacRae, a GP partner in Rainford, St Helens, said politicans do not understand how much extra work GPs already take on.

She told Pulse: ‘We offered Saturday morning surgeries for a full year after the new contract of 2004 and stopped these when we were only getting two patients per session. This out-of-hours demand has been fuelled by politicians in a bid to gain votes.’

Among those who said they they would consider the contract, the vast majority said it would only be possible if properly remunerated, or that the current GMS contract was so underfunded they would have little choice.

Lincoln GP and Pulse First5 blogger Dr Phil Williams said: ‘The current GMS and PMS contracts simply don’t enable practices to hire enough GPs, as well as other clinical and non-clinical staff, to deliver the quality of services we would like.’

‘We already provide Thursday evening and Saturday morning clinics. But, if the Government is going to appropriately fund the new “voluntary contract” which would enable us to provide a wider range of services and better access for our patients, then we would look at it.’

Pulse has already revealed that many CCGs involved in the initial pilots of seven day working, funded by the PMs Challenge Fund had scrapped or limited weekend working because of a lack of patient demand, a Pulse investigation found a quarter of pilots had cut their hours.

And NHS England’s own review said there was limited evidence to support routine GP access on Sundays.

Results in full

Would you consider signing up to the voluntary GP contract announced by David Cameron for larger practices to provide weekend and evening access?

Yes: 111 (12.2%)

No: 638 (70.1%)

Don’t know: 161 (17.7%)

Total number of respondents: 910

The survey was launched on 26th October 2015, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 20 questions asked covered a wide range of GP topics, to avoid selection bias on one issue. The survey was advertised to readers via our website and email newsletter, with a prize draw for a Samsung HD TV as an incentive to complete the survey. A total of 922 GPs answered this question