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Government has listened to GPs on seven-day opening, says NHS leader

GP concerns around seven-day opening have been taken on board by ministers and NHS England and could be incorporated into  the rescue package set to be announced by health secretary Jeremy Hunt , NHS England’s head of general practice development has suggested.  

Dr Robert Varnam said in today’s keynote speech at the Pulse Live conference in London that managers and politicians understands that ‘sometimes we might need to wait’ before ‘doing more’, adding that GPs ’have had their voices heard’ and should ’see what the next few weeks bring’.

Dr Varnam’s comments come as health secretary Jeremy Hunt is expected to imminently make a big announcement about a rescue package for general practice, which was originally due in February.

Following his speech on reducing GP workload, Dr Varnam was told by GP delegates that NHS England and politicians needed to stop giving patients the message that they should see their GP for everything, feeding demand.

But Dr Varnam responded: ‘I’m not a politician and I have not, I’m afraid, got any ability to change national perspectives [or] narratives [but] some of that has been heard, I think, by politicians.

‘On the question on seven-day opening or seven-day services, actually I think the views of the profession have been heard.’

He added: ‘I would say, let’s see what the next few weeks bring.’

As previously reported by Pulse, the Department of Health has proposed a £110m rescue package of measures for GPs, including a refreshed retainers scheme and more than 100 ‘golden hellos’ to tempt GP trainees to work in hard-to-recruit areas.

Dr Varnam also said he ‘would like to see’ NHS England put resources in place for GP practices to get support to implement some of the changes that he recommended in his talk to reduce workload.

These included for example active signposting of patients, new consultation types, reducing DNAs, developing the team, social prescribing and paretnership working.