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GP ‘myth buster’ rebuts seven-day working claims

A primary care myth buster has been produced pointing out that general practice already provides a seven-day service and that GPs deal with more than simply minor ailments.

The NHS Confederation and National Association of Primary Care resource points out that nine out of 10 GPs already work outside of normal working hours, despite the Government’s push for ‘seven-day’ access to GP appointments by 2020.

The primary care myth buster forms part of an NHS Confederation series of slides meant to ‘enrich the debates on topical, sometimes controversial, issues regarding our health and care’.

Quoting the BMA’s recent survey of the profession, it says the myth is that ‘GPs only work 9am-5pm and rarely at weekends’ but the reality is that ‘in many cases GPs are working 12-hour days – a recent survey showed that nine out of ten GPs regularly worked beyond their contracted hours’.

It adds: ‘In order to improve access for their patients, eight out of ten GPs are changing the way they work to offer more emergency appointments and striving to provide patient-friendly methods to increase GP access, including web, telephone and other innovative platforms.’

In all, it points out four myths, with the others being that primary care only relates to general practice (although it also spans dental practices, community pharmacies, and high-street optometrists), that A&E is the first port of call for most patients (when 90% of patient contacts are in primary care) and that GPs mainly deal with minor ailments (when the reality is that a significant proportion of the work is ‘complex case management’ of people with multiple long-term conditions).

Recently, GPs and hospital consultants united in a Twitter campaign to show health secretary Jeremy Hunt the NHS already runs a seven-day service, with the hashtag #ImInWorkJeremy.

This followed a speech in which Mr Hunt said thousands of patients were dying needlessly on weekends, linking his claim to consultants being unwilling to redraw their contracts to earn less money on weekends.