The DH has responded to Pulse readers’ concerns about Jeremy Hunt’s ‘new deal’ by claiming that it will strengthen the profession, and that patients want seven-day access.
Pulse editor Nigel Praities contacted the Department of Health with 50 readers’ comments on the ‘new deal’, which warned that it was the ‘final straw’ for general practice and that the health secretary had ‘failed to deliver’ a plan to help the profession.
Many GPs expressed anger that the investment pledged wouldn’t be sufficient to fund an extension of core GP opening hours –and would be unlikely to materialise – and the failure to recognise the enormous pressure GPs are already working under.
Sessional GP Dr John Pike said the funding was inadequate and would neglect existing out of hours services, saying: ‘This is the final straw for GPs. As a locum, I am partially protected from some of the worst aspects of this “new deal” but I stand in solidarity with GP partners, for whom routine seven-day working is unnecessary and absolutely impossible to deliver given that the five-day system is on its knees. OOH services already provide an adequate service at other times.’
Pulse columnist Dr Shaba Nabi set out a seven point list of problems, including Mr Hunt’s lack of understanding about how important continuity of care is, and how seven-day working will impact this.
She said: ‘You have done nothing in your so called deal to make the job more attractive and more manageable. We need money for standing still. We need to drop all QOFs/DESs/LESs and such like and retain historic money. This is the breathing space we so desperately needed and you have failed to deliver.’
In his letter to the DH, Mr Praities wrote: ‘Pulse asked its readers to give their response to the “new deal” for general practice announced by the health secretary last month. So far, we have had 49 responses from GPs and, after talking to many GPs myself, I can tell you that they do reflect the strength of opinion about the speech.
‘As I am sure you are aware, this is a crucial time for general practice and it is very important that the discussion of how to ensure patients get the best care continues.’
A response from a DH spokesperson said: ‘We recognise the importance of general practice and the work GPs do. The New Deal for GPs speech set out how we plan to help strengthen the profession, to create a better service for both patients and GPs.
‘The health secretary has pledged at least 10,000 extra primary and community care staff – including 5,000 doctors in general practice as well as practice nurses, district nurses, physician associates and pharmacists to relieve the pressure on general practice.
‘We know GPs are focused on providing a good service to their patients, and routine access to GPs at evenings and weekends is what people want. We will help GPs achieve that with more resource and we are exploring extra incentives to attract doctors into areas of greatest need.’