It is safe to say that the Government’s seven-day access scheme has met with considerable opposition from GPs.
A Pulse survey from 2014 found that more than half of GPs believe that the Government’s move towards seven-day GP access will negatively affect the safety of patient care. The survey of 431 GPs found that 58% believed that seven-day GP access will impact the safety of patient care ‘negatively or very negatively’, as opposed to 17% who said it affected care ‘positively or very positively’. Some 68% also said they would not support a move towards seven-day GP access even if it was properly resourced.
It is a waste of NHS resources
The RCGP has attacked the access policy from the outset saying it could actually ‘harm patient safety’ and the investment is a waste of valuable resources. Chair of the College, Dr Maureen Baker, lambasted proposals championed by the Government after last year’s election, saying the pledge is merely a ‘good sound bite that may have won votes, but at a time when general practice is creaking at the seams, it is a waste of NHS resources to be offering ear syringing on a Sunday teatime.’
The GPC has a similar position, arguing that GPs already provide seven-day services and that the investment being plunged into the access scheme should be spent more wisely. Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the GPC, called on the Prime Minister to ‘jettison the political pipe dreams of tomorrow and get real’ at the 2015 LMCs Conference.
Dr Nagpaul says that instead the funding should be used instead to improve out-of-hours and urgent care services because those are ‘the services that patients need.’ He says that it is ‘politics that interferes’, insisting there is not enough GPs or resources for five day a week working, let alone for OOH and urgent care.
But some GPs feel that seven-day access should be embraced and indeed be fully implemented across general practice by 2020. NHS England head of primary care commissioning, Dr David Geddes, has been a long time advocate for seven-day working and believes that the NHS is now in a position to provide seven-day access and is a chance to give ‘patients a range of appointment times and spread workload differently.’
Seven-day access can be a success
Meanwhile, some areas that have been piloting the service also think the scheme has been positive. Dr Peter Thomas from Bury GP Federation, an area hailed by the Government as evidence of the access scheme’s success, thinks that seven-day access ‘can be a success if implemented carefully’.
However, those representing grassroots GPs – the LMC leaders – think that the principle of seven-day GP access is floored and unachievable. Only recently at the LMCs Conference 2016, a motion was passed unanimously, which stated that the ‘current emphasis on seven-day working’ was ‘a political push for the unachievable’.