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RCGP warning over plans to bring back 48-hour target for GP appointments

RCGP has put out a warning to MPs not to bring back the 48-hour GP appointment target, because it will deepen the crisis in general practice and endanger patients.

In a statement, RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker warned that a return of the policy, which was scrapped in June 2010, would deepen the crisis in general practice and even endanger patient safety.

The Labour Party announced last week that it wants to bring back the target guaranteeing patients get to see a GP within 48 hours of requesting an appointment. But the proposal was an ‘ill-thought out, knee jerk’ reaction, said Dr Baker.

Pre-empting a scheduled opposition debate on A&E in the House of Commons this afternoon, she said: ‘The proposal to bring back the 48-hour target for GPs is an ill-thought out, knee-jerk response to a long-term problem – which is the profound crisis in the NHS caused by the chronic under-funding of general practice.’

‘Bringing back the 48-hour target for GP appointments will only make a bad situation worse by transferring more pressure onto general practice – at a time when it is in crisis – which could have a profound impact on the safety of patient care.’

Click here to read Dr Maureen Baker’s full response to the proposal

Speaking in Parliament last week, Labour’s shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the target could be put before the House of Commons for a vote at an opposition day debate on A&E which is taking place today.

But Dr Baker said the target, which had been introduced by the previous Labour Government, however well-intended, had upset the running of general practice.

She said: ‘We always felt that the 48-hour target introduced by the previous Labour government, whilst well intentioned, distorted the smooth-running of general practice. GP access is extremely important but if you prioritise that over everything else, other services suffer and patients often end up worse off.’

Mr Burnham’s press office said a vote on the target was ‘under consideration’ for today’s debate.