By Alisdair Stirling
The Conservatives have pledged seven-day access to local GPs, but sources have told Pulse this will not mean abandoning an earlier pledge to allow GPs to decide on their own opening hours by scrapping top-down targets for extended hours.
Dr Steel said he expected GPs to be given financial but not clinical responsibility for seven day access.
'The responsibility in this case can mean responsibility for the budget. And some practices may decide to deploy it in such a way that they stay open and provide seven day services while other practices will decide to employ others to do it for them,' he said.
Dr Dixon said he believed the Conservatives' plans had been misinterpreted and that the manifesto pledge did not mean the Tories were necessarily committed to Sunday opening.
He said the Health Secretary had already voiced support for the NHS Alliance proposal that GP consortiums should take charge of commissioning of 24-hour care, and argued this mechanism could be used to fulfill the pledge without turning general practice into a supermarket-style operation.
Dr Nigel Watson, chair of the GPC's commissioning and service development subcommittee, said the GPC would be seeking clarification over seven-day access: ‘There is access to GPs on a Sunday and it is called out-of-hours. This provides access for unscheduled care in primary care. I do not see a huge demand for routing access to general practice on a Sunday. The cost of providing access eight til eight seven days a week in every practice would be vast.'
´With the need to reduce hospital beds and potentially make people redundant in the NHS this does not strike me as a major area for new expenditure,´ Dr Watson said.Seven-day access 'will not be top-down'